Like water in a stream

It’s been a long time without much writing of any kind. More doing and less talking.
These summer months have flown by like a dream. There were moments, when this dream resembled a nightmare and other moments when I felt so blissful that if it really was a dream, I never wanted to wake up. The biggest change is that my home is no longer the beautiful and utterly crazy Greek island. I chose to move back to Estonia – back to my roots.

Like always, these pivotal moments in life make you look back for a moment. So here it is.

During the last six years:

3 countries

5 locations

10 places to call “home”

2 new languages

countless foster kittens and so many new amazing friends that I lost track

 

How did I do it? Honestly – I still have no idea.

I have yet to understand what is the difference between courage and crazyness (if there is any). I don’t feel especially courageous, slightly crazy – yes.

 

It takes a whole lot of crazy to pack your whole life, including two kids (a toddler and a baby) into one car, drive “as far South as South Europe goes” and keep on following the chances in life that throw you around like a small rowboat in the storm. Today the toddler has grown into a beautiful young trilingual lady and the baby into a very confident trilingual first-grader.

I have divorced, finding that an ex-husband is even better friend than a husband was.

I have fallen completely head-over-heels with a man, who makes me happier, than I have ever been.

I have fallen in and out of love with Greece over and over again every day. That place is still magic.

 

The “crazy”, I can relate with. The “courageous” not so much because that word for me means “fearless” and I am very far from being fearless. I am afraid all the time. Afraid of failure, of not being enough, of making mistakes. And yet I keep on going. Stubbornly, like a goat, I keep on climbing the rocks in search of.. in search of what? When you move around so much, sometimes you lose sight of what you were looking for in the first place. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I felt, that it’s time to return home. It’s time to take “time out” from the constant moving. It’s time to grow some roots, make a nest and recuperate. Traveling loses its charm, when you do it constantly. I’m fed up with airports, ferries, suitcases, long-distance driving and Skype conversations with the nearest and dearest.

 

Sometimes we travel to get somewhere and other times we travel to get away from something. Whether it’s one or the other – it’s good to know why you are doing this. Sometimes you only know the answer in retrospect. There is no right or wrong reason to travel and there’s no clear “black or white” answer but it’s important to be conscious of the reasons, why you left the safety net.

 

I used to think for a long time that I left towards something, not away from something. Now I think, it was a bit of both. I always longed for these experiences of living in another country. But I was also running away from some things that I could not deal with. What I learned along the way is that everything always starts and ends with yourself and you can’t run from yourself. Running away from something never works because the reasons why you resisted and created a problem, will always follow you and create new situations like that, until you realize that other people and situations never change – you have to do that! You have to stop resisting and learn to flow. You have to always question your knowledge, your feelings and your motivations. To keep on learning and growing each and every day, welcoming every challenge as another chance to become a bit better version of yourself.

 

My most recent favorite quote is “Everything has the meaning that we give to it”. Everything is a choice, including what matters and what not. Acknowledging that I choose, what meaning I give to events and circumstances, gives me a strong sense of freedom and being grounded at the same time. What ever happens, I choose how I see it and what it means to me. I choose to see how I am supported and loved.

 

So being scared is ok. Being crazy is ok. Being courageous is ok. Not being any of those is still ok. We flow like water in a stream. Have you ever seen water drops banging their head against the rock, trying in vain to remove it? Neither should we. Like Dory in “Finding Nemo” we “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming…

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Love is not always enough

Love is easy. Effortless.

Communication is not.

In a perfect world love will overcome the challenges in communication. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We are only humans, we have egos. We have a mind that can not stop thinking, analysing, justifying, reasoning. And sometimes the soft whisper of the heart is not audible over the constant banter of the mind.

What does the heart try to say? It says that all those arguments do not matter… All, that we believe to be a crucial „matter of the principle“, is just the ego. And it is not important. All that really matters is love.

Love for yourself, love for those around you right now. In that order. Because love for yourself means also establishing healthy boundaries. It means not searching and begging for love. Love is in you. Always.

Communication, or rather lack of it, is the biggest challenge that we are facing in this human experience. It is severely lacking between people as well as between organizations. While the fast development of the virtual world and social media seems to enhance communication, it also brings out even more clearly our lack of communication. We seem to be communicating the wrong things… Instead of binding together as one society, one planet, we get further and further from each other. Instead of letting vulnerability connect us, we shield it with pride, anger and fear.

We all came to this life with a different goal. Maybe a lot of people came here to experience separation. That is why they are so eagerly separating themselves from others. „Them“ vs „us“, „your ideas“ vs „my ideas“.

In our dualistic world you have to experience separation, to understand unity. You have submerge into black, so that you could understand, what is white.

I am also struggling with communication, every day. I don’t have the right tools, the right ways to communicate my needs, feelings and ideas. More than often I find myself banging my head against the wall in hope that if I bang hard enough, it will magically become a door.

I need to learn communication. I need to get better at expressing myself, and understanding others. I am tired of facing the same walls and solving the same issues over and over again. I need to find ways how to listen and make myself heard. I am yearning for the right teacher to appear, as he/she always does, when I need it the most.

When I first came to Greece, there was this strange magic here that always brought me what I needed. The right house, the right people, the right teacher. The universe was communicating with me and saying that „Yes, you are on the right path. Keep on going!“

For some time now I feel that this magic is fading away. I feel stuck and uninspired. I am going no-where, doing nothing. Maybe it’s because I have forgot the habit of every evening gratitude meditation? Or maybe it’s because it’s time to move on? I still love this country. But love is not always enough, when communication is lacking.

Finding the intrinsic motivation

Working on your own schedule from a home-office is a dream for many, who drag their butt to the office every morning and sit there, counting the minutes, until they can leave for lunch or home. But this lifestyle brings many challenges that either force you to grow up a bit or get a different job.
The undeniable pull of the comforts of your bed.
The fridge, that maybe, just maybe today has started to produce tasty surprises out of thin air.
The laundry pile that is staring you with reproach.
The dog that needs to walk.
All those little things that give you a reason to postpone work. It will just take a minute, right?! Wrong! It will take you 10 minutes plus 10 minutes and… before you know, the kids are back from school and you have not done any work yet.

I have been resisting the growing up part of life for quite some time fairly successfully, I must admit. But getting a different job is not that easy here, so at some point I realised that it is about time to grow up just a little bit and find some self discipline.

I guess my first Eureka moment came, through the genius of Mark Manson. I have been praising his piece about not giving a fuck for a long time. But this was a different piece. With his very distinctive style, Mark wrote that screw finding your passion!

That was one of those pieces that sheds light with brutal honest to all of those things that you really don’t want to know. I have been writing so much about finding your passion! I have been soul-searching for what makes me happy and who do I want to be when I grow up. While doing that, I have postponed growing up and really doing anything. Like Mark writes “Life is all about not knowing, and then doing something anyway”.

The problem is not passion. The problem is productivity!

We all have our passions. Many of them. But most of the time we moan about how we can not turn these into a profession and we HAVE to stay at a job, that we don’t really enjoy. HAVE to! As if someone else, something external has forced us into this. Stubbornly closing our eyes to the fact the absolutely everything in life is a choice. Everything is our own creation, knowingly or not. You always make a choice and with that you win some, you lose some. Maybe you gain financial security over personal happiness… wait… that is going into slavery willingly! Isn’t it?

Anyway, my problem is not that I slave my days away, while not living my life. I have an opposite problem. I fill my days with hedonistic pleasures and personal life and then moan that I don’t have an income. Well, guess what – if you are not doing much, then you are not earning much!

What if we are just lazy?

Mark’s ideas were emphasized in December, when I visited Estonia. On the first week I visited a friend, who is very busy with some seriously inspiring projects and whose partner is a CEO of a big company. We had a nice dinner, and as it was late, we stayed the night. After about 5-6 hrs of sleep, both of our hosts get up in the morning and start doing stuff. No complaining that they “have” to work, no procrastinating. Just doing. That’s when I turned to my dear L and asked, “What if our problem is that we are just lazy?”

Labelling us “lazy” is not going to help here, because that only contributes to self-hate, and self-hate only contributes to more procrastinating. But at the same time we have to face the reality. Things are not happening, because we are not making them happen. And that’s a choice too. Just not a very conscious one. We just don’t have enough self-discipline to push ourselves out of the comfort zone and doing more, instead of sleeping in, having a long lunch and even longer conversations.

So, how to find self discipline?

That was the quest for this January. And as always, once you have asked the right question, you will start to find the answers.

First I read about this interesting idea of a 5AM challenge. One of my favourite Greek bloggers, Ekaterina, is writing about how she finds the time to set a good course for the whole day by taking one hour just for herself in the morning. That hour is divided into three 20-minute parts. She starts with some yoga/pilates, continues to take care of some chores and finishes the hour with reading or listening something. That routine helps her to organize and de-clutter her mind, so that she can focus better on her goals and daily plans.

While this idea was very inspiring, it is not very realistic in my case. There is absolutely no way, I will wake up at 5AM. I have tried that and failed miserably. I am just not a morning person and trying to change that never ends well. So, while keeping in mind the idea of dedicating a structured hour to myself, I will find a different timing for that.

The other piece that really helped me to find some discipline is an article that suggests to create rules that will make your goals happen. It is a lovely gentle way of setting up some easy-to-follow rules for yourself, that will guide you step-by-step into being more mindful, present, focused and productive. After reading this I started with my first rule – every night I write down two goals for the next day. These goals are easy and not necessarily time consuming. Work is not among them, work has to happen besides that anyway. These goals are there to get me up, get me going and give me a warm happy feeling of “job well done”, so that I will be more active and motivated throughout the day.

Motivated by fear vs motivated by love

The sad truth is that most of us are never taught to find our own discipline and motivation. We go to school, where we learn for the teacher and get things done in fear of getting scolded or failing the class. After being pushed through the education system by nagging parents and teachers, we get work done because of deadlines and nagging colleagues or in fear of the boss. If you live your life the “right” way, you will never have to find intrinsic motivation – there will always be something or someone who “makes” you do things.

The real motivation behind this is usually fear. Fear of losing a job and an income with it. Fear of losing the respect of others, the identity that is created by your occupation. But fear-based motivation usually does not get us far and never really makes us happy. We have to find motivation that is based on love. Love for yourself, love for your job, your family, your home, your society. Once you find that motivation, productivity will come with it, naturally.

Until you are still searching for that motivation, just DO stuff. The more things you do, the more possibilities of finding out, what is the job the gets you out of bed in the morning with joy.

 

 

Authenticity and integrity vs being politically correct

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Some years ago I decided that I am going to strive towards being as honest as I possibly can be. With myself and people around me. I believe that honesty is the first step in any personal development. That also means taking the courage to be honest about your own issues. I have found throughout these years and especially recently, that honesty may be the most difficult thing to do in life.

When you are trying to be honest, you spend half of the time doubting yourself and asking, whether your actions and words really truly correspond to your feelings or did you just now try to sugarcoat something? And the other half of the time you contemplate, whether you were just honest or simply an asshole?

Being honest can bring you really good friends, because you dare to be open and vulnerable. It can also bring you furious enemies, because clear honesty is not always accepted. People don’t want to see ugly and uncomfortable things. They don’t want you to reflect back things that they are desperately trying to hide from themselves. But is it even my job to reflect those things? Should I be telling honestly what I think and see or should I stay “politically correct” and only say nice things that people like to hear?

When you are being “politically correct”, you are in truth just being careful. You walk around on your toes, trying to please everybody. Everybody except yourself. Brutal honest reality is – you can never please everybody so just stop trying. You are the only person that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. So forget about being careful. Be honest and live dangerously.

Sure it does not mean that you have to stomp through life like a drunk elephant. Honesty does not necessarily mean being brutal. Honesty has to come from a good place, not from frustration and anger. Then it can be loving, kind and gentle. When you feel that your honesty comes from anger, hold your tongue and use this opportunity to think “Why do I feel so strongly about this issue?!” If you are being truly honest with yourself, you will find a personal issue behind that anger – an old wound that has not healed, your personal insecurity or fear. Anything that irritates us about others, is just a reflection of what we refuse to see in ourselves.

The other moment when honesty may not be the best policy is when you see someone do something differently or “wrong”. Never ever give advice that has not been asked for. No matter how badly you want to “show the light”, if you have not been asked, do not advise. Everyone has their own journey and though you may honestly be better informed, you have no right to impose your truths on others. These truths will just be rejected. Most of the time. The key is motivation. Look at yourself really really honestly – did you want to give advice out of pure selfless caring or was there a little bit of ego behind? While teaching someone how to live their life, very often we are actually boosting our ego by “being and knowing better”.

Being careful and politically correct is not being kind to yourself. And being honest is not always being kind to others. There has to be a balance. How to find that balance, I do not know yet. Sometimes I stomp around, step on others’ feelings and then wonder what the hell did I do wrong. Other times I walk around smiling to everyone, accepting every kind of bullshit and turn myself into a pretzel in order to be liked and accepted. That usually also ends up with me wondering what the hell am I doing wrong.

While looking for that balance, I have found some great advice and interesting people though. I have experienced that there is no need to be afraid of honesty. When you dare to be yourself then you may lose some people but they were probably not worth keeping anyway. What happens, is that you will find new people who vibrate on the same frequency, as you do.

So the quest continues. Less carefulness, more honesty. With caring of course.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Martin Luther King Jr.

I have been keeping a fairly low profile on political issues. I don’t like senseless conflict and the clash of world views will bring a conflict, whether I want it, or not. But sometimes you just can not stay silent any longer.
When you see how people around you close their eyes to human values and form a screaming mob of which-hunters. “Refugees! Moslems! Terrorists!”. They spread the most outrageous nasty dirty lies that have been carefully and knowingly constructed and fed to them on the spoon of fears and ego-boosting.
When you see seemingly intelligent public figures spreading hatred and extremist propaganda.
When you see, that this whole carousel is so crazy, that you start feeling nauseous and you want to stop the world from spinning, so you could step off.

I have been living in my own little beautiful bubble here. My friends collect donations, to aid the islands, struggling with the refugees or go even to volunteer there. My friends post beautiful messages on hope and light in FB. They find ways to be the good change in the world, that they want to see. I get the feeling that everybody understands that violence IS NOT the answer to violence. You can not fight fire with fire. You can fight it with the opposite (water), or stop feeding it. Adding more fuel will never help. The rise of hatred and fear can only be put out with the “water” of understanding and compassion. And we stop feeding the violence, when we stop sending the troops to bomb the crap out of other countries.

But when I look outside of that beautiful bubble of “my tribe”, I realize that I can not watch in silence, when people spread hatred and violence. We live in a time of great change and it can go either way… If enough people with a heart and soul are quiet, then those who are organizing a modern-day which hunt can continue their atrocities. We have to speak up to protect the basic human values. At the end of the day the race, religion or background does not matter. Under those labels we are all the same people.

Strong political forces do not want us to see that though. Neither USA nor Russia really want to see a unified Europe. Because that would be one more strong leader in the world, where there already is too many..
I believe that USA and Russia both are knowingly contributing to destabilize Europe. This is not about Muslims. ISIS is just another creation of the powerful political forces. It’s a puppet. This is about breaking Europe to little pieces and then swallowing them one-by-one. Another Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in the making?
They create a threat of “those Muslims” and we take the bait. We blame “those Muslims”, when in reality terrorism has no religion. What it does have, is a sinister motive of spreading fear and creating people who feel alone, scared and are therefore easily manipulated.

Those wars and the resulting migrant crisis has been created knowingly to tear people apart. To weaken the bonds of communities by sowing fear and hatred. Simple people do not care, what is the colour of the skin or mother tongue of your neighbour. As long as they are generally nice. History has shown that over and over again. How many people in Estonia today have wonderful friends, neighbours and colleagues, whose mother tongue is Russian? Almost everybody! The Greeks, Turks and Albanians were living quite peacefully side by side in many regions until the political forces decided to violently change that. Because people, unified by friendship, are harder to manipulate.

Peaceful world is not a profitable world. First we sell them billions of dollars worth of weapons and train them to use them. Then we pretend to turn against them and start bombing the crap out of as many cities as possible. And then we offer those same countries a “friendly” price to rebuild the same shit that we just demolished. Wonderful business plan, isn’t it? Fear sells! It sells guns, walls, bullet-proof cars and even lives.

I understand, that by reacting with anger to all this, I do exactly the same – I feed the fire. I need to find the compassion and understanding towards those, who are still stuck in the prison of their own fears.

The truth is, I am scared too!
I am scared that when I visit Tallinn with my dear Greek man in December, he will have to bear the insults and verbal abuse from those, who are influenced by the right-extremist propaganda. I have never experienced any discrimination in Greece. But if he will experience it in Estonia, I would rather make Greece my new home country for good, than live with the fear that the people, that I love, are not safe from racist violence.

When expressing those fears to him, he reminds me that I have to choose my agenda and not let the media do it for me. If I buy into the fear, I will find, what I am looking for. I need to stay focused and present. I need to keep looking for the beauty and love in life, then I will keep on finding it. Bad things are happening in the whole world. But good things are happening too, at the same time. Where do you focus?

How to get and keep a job on a Greek island in 100 easy steps

Now that winter is here and I am not currently employed, I dare to publish this piece that I first wrote some time in the beginning of summer. To be very clear – this has not been written based on one specific employer. This a collective experience based on talks with many people who have been in that situation, trying to find a job in the tourism business on a small Greek island. This is a kaleidoscope (another Greek word…) – creating a new picture with the help of some mirrors and colourful bits and pieces.

Getting employed in most developed countries is a reasonably uncomplicated process. You first find a job ad by an employment agency or a specialized website. You apply, go through the hiring process, get a contract that defines your responsibilities, work hours, salary and the conditions for any changes to the contract from either side – the employer or employee. Any changes require a prior notice – usually minimum one month.This is the professional way of doing things.

But not here! Not in Greece. At least not here in the Cycladic islands, in the seasonal tourism industry.
While I am sure, that there are many Greek employers, who do things the professional way, finding one is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Most people have been used to working with only family members for decades. And we all know how that turns out… (The last time I tried that, I ended up working hard for good promises and no salary whatsoever)
In addition to that, everyone – including the business owners – has the added pressure of earning as much money as possible within the short 3-month season, with spending as little as possible. Not necessarily the most sophisticated business plan…

Here it goes something like that:

1. Once the weather gets warmer, you start talking to all the people you meet, telling them that you are looking for a job.
2. They point you in different directions. You go and talk some more.
3. After a lot of talking, and some more talking, you are invited for a test day or a few test days, depending on the employers mood.
4. You go for another test day in different place
5. And one more
6. And a few days over at that place..
7. Finally in one place, on a best case scenario, you will get a promise, that you can start on a specific date with a predetermined salary that is either monthly, weekly or daily.
8. Of course no-one these days dares to employ illegally, so you have to take care that your paperwork is all done (which is a whole another story).
9. On worse cases you will hear τα θα βρούμε… We will find it. What IT exactly is, will be determined some time in the vague future. The starting date? The job description? The salary?

And then the dance starts. Like traditional Greek dances, it moves a little bit to the left, a little to the right, a little forward and a little back.

10. Come and start over Easter.
11. No, actually a little before Easter.
12. Ok, actually I meant after Easter.
13. We are not busy yet so you will start on June 1st.
14. June 10th..
15. I will call you..
16. On June 5th you get a call, come NOW! We need you! It is crazy busy.
17. On June 8th – we are not so busy, so you will work only 5 hrs until we get busier.
18. You will work at the reception.
19. No actually we need you in the bar.
20. Well, the kitchen is really busy, would you be willing to work there?
21. You know what – you will be doing different jobs, depending on where it is the busiest.
21. You start at 8:30 in the morning and finish at 17:00
22. Can you come a little earlier?
23. What do you mean you want to leave already at 17:55? Everyone does minimum 2 hrs of overtime, it has been like that for 30 years and absolutely no-one has EVER complained!
24. You will work a split shift – some hours in the morning and some in the evening.
25. You will work when I tell you to work.. be sure to be available 24 hrs a day to do anything that I need you to do.
26. As an employee in a country that is in a crisis, you don’t have too many options. So you say yes. You are flexible.
27.You wait.
28. And wait.
29. And run.
30. And wait.
31. You carefully learn all you need to know.
32. And then you UNlearn everything you thought you knew about this job so you can adjust to what exactly your employer wants today.
33. If you think you know the job, think again. You know nothing and the boss knows everything.
34. Finally you have mastered this dance. You feel happy and confident and your clients like you. Everything seems to run smoothly and even the constantly changing work hours have finally been fixed. And just as you think, you can relax and enjoy your work, your employer comes and overnight finds a thousand things that you are doing completely wrong. Suddenly it turns out that you were never good enough from the start and the only reason that he hired you was pity.
35. So you return home completely confused. What happened? Why? What did I do wrong.
36. And the next day the same position is filled with the cousin or a nephew of the employer. She/he is 17 years old and completely inexperienced, but apparently does a way better job…

37.-100. So you start the dance all over again. Talk, wait, run, wait, learn, hope…

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There are rare few employers that do play professionally. For two years in August I worked for such people – it was so clear and easy. They knew exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it and what they are willing to pay for it. Clear negotiations, high work standards and fixed dates and salaries. Easy and professional.
But too many local employers don’t play professionally. Even after running the same business for decades, they are still not completely sure when and what do they need from their employees. They change their minds according to mood, caffeine and nicotine concentration in the blood, hormones, how many clients they have today, what saints’ day it is today, how their grandmother was feeling yesterday and who knows what else.

Running a business always comes with a certain risk. As a business owner you have to be able to take that risk. Maybe there are less clients this week than the previous week. But this is not your employee’s problem. Maybe you are afraid that you will pay more taxes or that uncle will be pissed off if you can’t offer his teenager son a job. But it still does not concern your employee. The people that work for you have put their trust in you. They depend on you. It is a big responsibility to take and not everyone is emotionally ready for it.

This is not  about nationality – it is about culture. And culture comes from upbringing. While sharing “war stories” with other employees is a lot of fun, the uncertainty is also frustrating and mentally exhausting. It will change over time, I am sure of it. I wish it would happen faster though…

The beauty of diversity in relationships

Recent days have brought me a lot of food for thought about the different forms of relationships and issues that one or other may bring with them. I am lucky in that department. My own current relationship is exactly what I need at this point in my life and my relationship with my ex-husband is better than I ever expected it to be: friendly, supportive and respectful on both sides. I am happy that he has found someone new to love and she likes our children very much. The more supporting adults children have in their lives, the better.

But observing the world and people around me, not everyone is so lucky. Actually most people are not. There is so much pain, anger, fear and boundary issues contained in relationships. Angry and spiteful ex-spouses, dishonesty with current partners, mental and emotional abuse and too strict or too relaxed boundaries are so common that we take it as a norm. Why is it so?

The concept of a “monogamous forever marriage” is still the one and only “right” concept in the western world. Anything different is mostly treated with contempt that stems out of fear. Anything that we don’t know is “wrong”, “amoral” and should be banned.
Gays = wrong = not natural = STDs = child abuse = shame them!
Polygamy = islam = terrorists = shoot them!
Open relationships, in their different forms = sluttyness = STDs = amorality = child abuse = shame them!

Fear, hatred, self-righteousness and ego, are intrinsically part of our family system. And then we are wondering why there is so much conflict and war in our world? It all starts at home. If we can not live in peace with the closest people to us, how do we expect any peace in the rest of the world?

The truth is that the concept of monogamous marriage is deeply in crisis. Jessica O’Reilly talks in her TED talk about the idea of monogamISH relationship, and how this idea might be the key to save the monogamous marriage. (And yes, I think it is worth saving. It may not be right for everyone, but for those who want this, we have to find a way to make it work and last).

O’Reilly points out that if someone tries to sell you a business investment opportunity or a flight ticket with a 50/50 percent of success/arrival chance, would you take it? I doubt that. But we still believe in marriage, though more than half of them end up in divorce. In O’Reilly’s point of view the key to a successful lasting relationship is opening it up a little. It does not mean necessarily the chance to have sex with other people. What it means is open and honest communication about feelings and playfulness.

I support this approach very much, because I have experienced that it works. The moment when you are free to admit that you like someone else outside of the relationship, you feel less inclined to do something about it. Honesty and freedom, two crucial pillars of a functional healthy relationship! You can talk about other people, the extent of how far both of your boundaries are flexible and any kind of feelings this brings along. If that is OK with both of you, go ahead and flirt with someone else. If you both agree to it, bring a third person into your relationship. And if you both do not agree, don’t do it. But be honest, be clear and have courage to ask for what you want. You may just get it.

So what if exploring the boundaries of your relationship you find, that monogamy is not enough for you? That’s OK too. There are so many different ways of marriage around the world and they work beautifully. The key once again is freedom. Cultural anthropologist Kimber McKay has studied marriage and family systems cross-culturally for 20 years. In her TED talk she shares her experience of getting to know the polyandry traditions in Nepalese Himalayas. She spent a year living there in order to learn more about their traditions that are so different from ours but have served them so well, that they persist to keep those traditions despite the pressure to change them.

Another interesting story is the possibly last matriarchal society in the world – the Mosuo tribe in China. A culture where women decide how many lovers or whom they will take. It is a very peaceful society where partnership is based on love, not convention. They have lived like that for more than 2000 years without knowing wars, rape or prison.

Those societies live in peace and harmony with life choices that are so different from ours. So what could be wrong with them? Nothing, in my opinion. There are so many things that these forms of marriage can teach us about cooperation, accepting and respecting each other.

Then there is an idea of intentional community that is so well represented by one of my favourite spiritual teachers, Teal Swan. Or the concept of free love that is represented in the Tamera community in Portugal.

Both are comprised of adults who live together as a family and who have a very open and honest communication about the sexual relationships and boundaries within that group. It is monogamous, if they choose to, it is open if they choose to. The main principal is love and respect for all those people who surround you. The extended family may include several ex-partners, without any hatred or rivalry. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
Looking at all those messed up ex-husband/ex-wife stories around me, I dream of the day when we could all accept each other’s choices in love and support them unconditionally. So many emotional wounds would never happen… And it makes me once again send out a gratitude prayer for the men in my life. They are amazing.

As Teal writes “Divorce does not have to mean two people are separated from one another. Separation is unnatural in a universe that is innately one. Once you love someone, you include them as yourself. To separate from them is to try to separate from part of yourself. This is why it hurts so bad. It’s as if you’re cutting part of yourself off. And you feel the severing of the separation in your heart. This is not necessary. Given enough desire and conscious intention on both sides, it does not need to happen at all. […] We need to learn how to have conscious relationships. But to do this, we have to let go of our pre-conception of how relationships should be. […] If you try everything to make it work as partners and it doesn’t work long term, there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Love is about inclusion. Inclusion is the key to making relationships between people work. If people are willing and inclusion is the creed, it is possible to embrace new partners and new lifestyle arrangements.”

So what is my point in all this long story?
Humans are meant to live as a community. We are social creatures. Single family household is a LOT of work! But the “should”, “should not”, “must” and “must not” divide us and hurt us. Borrowing again words from Teal “If we have an idea of how someone should behave, we are letting our standards be dictated by someone who came before us. Someone who had power over others and who decided that if others behaved in a certain way, it would make them feel happier. It is a form of social control that we have bought into and that we now reinforce. We need to ask ourselves, who decided what was tasteful and what was tasteless? And why?”

Instead of loving and supporting each other, we end up creating more trouble because deep down inside we are afraid of losing love, losing support, losing the ones that we care about. We have to face that fear. Admit it, say it, cry about it. And then trust, that the more you accept and support others in love and life, the more support and love you will find. Don’t try to hold on at all cost. Let go and let life happen. You are a wonderful creature who deserves a much love as you might ever want and need. Start by loving yourself, respecting your own boundaries and accepting others’ boundaries and choices. Be honest. Be open. Everything else follows naturally.

There’s more to life than happiness

Today I had the pleasure to translate an interesting article that resonates so much with my own pursuits within the last few years. You can find the article here: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy.
It is about a man, who survived the holocaust, saved very many lives and inspired even more.

I have been looking for happiness but despite my continuous efforts I still find that happiness is fleeting and I am constantly restless, trying to see, what is missing. The question that I have been asking over and over again, is “what I want to be, when I grow up”. Apparently it is the one question to ask, in search of happiness. Because searching for happiness itself is not enough and not permanent. In order to find happiness you have to find the way how you can serve others, using your talents. And you have to let go of the idea of always striving for personal satisfaction. Happiness that comes from following your desires is fleeting. Satisfaction that comes from a meaningful life is long-term.

When you have kids and they are little, it is fairly easy – they need you so much, your meaning in life is to help them grow. But the more the grow up, the more you start to feel that there must be more that you can do and offer. But what is it? What is the thing that makes you unique and irreplaceable? For some people motherhood is the meaning and purpose in their life. And that is just as good as any job. Others need to find their meaning in something else. It’s no better or worse – it’s just different.

Too many people settle for “doing their job” instead of looking for the meaning, that they have in this life. And they are most of the time a little anxious, unsatisfied, irritated and restless. They try to fill the gap by satisfying their desires.
With the job comes the salary.
Money helps to buy pretty things. Things make them happy for a while.
They go to theatre and cinema. That helps to forget their unhappiness for a while.
Money helps them to travel. Travelling makes them happy for a while.

And then like junkies they look for the next dose of things, entertainment or travels. They get a fleeting satisfaction from filling those desires and then go back to the “job” to be miserable, while earning money for the next doses. But this is not life! This is not enough!

I’m not saying that pretty things, entertainment and travelling is essentially “wrong” or “bad”. Everything has it’s time and place. And when you have spent your days doing the job that leaves you satisfied, happy and fulfilled each day, then why not use your well-earned salary on something beautiful or interesting. And there are so many people who find their personal meaning and fulfilment in offering you those things – there are countless ways and professions where people can find their meaning and purpose. It becomes a problem when shopping, entertainment or travelling become the means to distract us from the cold hard reality that we are doing nothing to fulfil our potential and reach for our dreams.

This summer I did the same thing. I did my job. I was not incredibly happy or satisfied doing it, but it was a job with a salary. I found myself asking several times a day “what am I doing here?” “Why?” I guess it was necessary as a learning experience. As people we learn through contrast. By seeing what we are not, we get closer to what we are. So I hope that I have come one step closer again to realizing what I want to be, when I grow up. Frankl wrote “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.” Being bored and frustrated serves a purpose too – it directs you away from things that are not supporting your unique meaning in life. So I continue looking for my own meaning and purpose. And what I take with me from that article about Viktor Frankl’s life is that we find meaning by stopping looking for happiness. Happiness comes naturally when you have found your purpose. But “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

Meaningful life is not necessarily happier every moment of the day. Meaningful life may mean that you give up your personal happiness in service of someone or something else. But meaningful life gives us hope and happiness in the long term instead of fleeting moments of pleasure.

Imagine an honest world

Maybe a year or so my boyfriend introduced me to an interesting French movie La Belle Verte. This movie is a very captivating and different approach to sci-fi. It shows a civilization on a small planet that lives a simple lifestyle and is so much more developed in many ways than the people on Earth. Every few hundred years a volunteer from that planet travels to Earth. In the movie, the woman who travels to Earth has an ability to influence people around her in a way, that they suddenly can not lie any more. They have to speak the clear and honest truth. Not only with people around them but with themselves too. Suddenly they can not continue to deceive themselves or anyone else.

I first started to think of this movie, because recently we have been joking that my dear L. is from another planet. He tells me stories about life on “his planet” and I find reasons that “prove”, he is not from here.
He has so many personal qualities that most people are still struggling to find. It is almost like he comes from another, more advanced civilization. On the other hand he sometimes struggles himself with fairly simple and straightforward matter-of-fact things in life.

Thinking of the movie La Belle Verte brought a thought to my head. It is no secret that we live in a world of smiling lies and suppressed feelings. We tell lies every day. Sometimes small and white, sometimes bigger and darker. And most of all, we deceive ourselves all the time. We don’t honour our needs because we lie to ourselves that these don’t matter. We lie because we want to spare other people’s feelings, to keep our job, our relationships, our identity and ego. Not telling the truth is also a form of lying. We run from the truth every time, it is uncomfortable or painful. We surround ourselves with a wall of small lies so that the big truths could not get in. We protect our identity and ego by holding on to the lies and the pain.

What if one day we were physically unable to tell a lie. Big or small, white or black? What if everyone started to tell the brutal honest truth about what they think and feel? Always. Every time. What would happen?

First it would probably be a chaos. Fighting, crying, arguing and maybe even suicides. Then would come a huge relief. We don’t have to think, what others may be thinking of – they will tell us. We start asking for things that we really want. We leave relationships that don’t work any more and create new ones. We find a job, where we can be truly and honestly happy. We are free.
Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Brutal and merciless honesty with yourself is an absolutely necessary basis for any kind of self growth and development. It is by far not easy. But it will set you free.

So when was the last time you lied to yourself or anyone around you? And how could you change yourself or your life in a way, that you don’t have to tell this lie the next time?

Telepathy is overrated

The last few weeks have been very intense. Emotionally, mentally, physically and even politically. So much is going on within such a short period of time – it is exhilarating and draining at the same time. I have been writing a lot, just not here. Just this week I published two of my own articles in an Estonian newsportal and was interviewed for a third one in a different one. There’s also a quite sharp blog post draft, that I wrote, waiting for it’s time…

I lost one job and found two jobs a week later. I advanced to a higher level of logistics with getting my girls to extra rehearsals before the big end-of-the-year ballet show. I welcomed my ex-husband to the island and had several lovely afternoons, coffees and lunches with the two wonderful men in my life – the ex and the current. Who could have known that it is possible to live like that, without any bitterness or hostility over past or present issues, just friends – all of us. We watched the big ballet school performance where both my girls did a wonderful job. And then the next evening I sent them on the ferry with their father – on their way to Estonia for the summer.

As much as I need this break for myself, it is not easy at all to let them go for two full months. I do find though that partly because I knew I will be apart from them, partly just as an influence from the environment, where I live, I have learned to be far more affectionate with my girls.
The way I grew up, public show of affection was not common in our family or the ones around me. It may sound strange, but all I remember from my own childhood or my friend’s lives then, was stern, decisive and often nagging mothers and maybe a bit more affectionate but often too drunk fathers. My own father was never drunk but so distant emotionally that our occasional meetings were strange and slightly uncomfortable for most, who witnessed it. I very rarely saw mothers who were unconditionally loving and caring and not afraid to show it. It was just the way of the women who grew up in the Soviet era and whose mothers before that lived through war and difficulties that we can not even begin to imagine. I am sure that all those women loved their children more than anything. But they never showed it or told them. I don’t remember my mother ever telling me, that she loves me. I remember once in my life, hearing that she is proud of me (after a particularly nasty fight that left us both in tears). I am sure that she cares for me very much, but I have never heard it. And that’s why it has been a learning experience for me to be different. To let my girls know each day and in may ways how much I love them.

The one thing that inspires me a lot, is the Greek women. Many of them are incredibly close with their mothers and very much publicly affectionate. With their children, their friends and family. Sure – not all those relationships are healthy. There is a lot of codependency, emotional manipulation, hidden agendas and control. But there is also a lot of love and willingness to express that love. And that’s what I want to learn too.

It is not enough to know in your head and in your heart how much you care for the people around you. You have to tell them, show them and see them. See them as they are, pay attention to what they like, accept their weaknesses and quirks. And let them know, that you do. Let them know often and in many different ways. Telepathy is overrated. Use words.