A trip to another star

Some time ago I came across this wonderful page: http://www.aegeanpan.com/
The introduction to this page writes:

Living on an island somewhere in the Aegean Sea, is like living on a star; it’s the strange feeling of being part of a constellation, yet disconnected at the same time.
It’s this Sea that sets us free, and it’s this Sea that draws our limits. Our islands swim through a golden light.
I think that’s the reason why people here are so warm, gentle and creative. Their creativity and love for life is shown through the colours of their boats, their flowers in their yards, their amazing cooking and their storytelling.

I find this description paints a wonderful picture about life on an island in the Aegean Sea. In one of the posts the author describes, what island life has meant for her through different stages of life. And although I have not experienced them – through her vivid words I can almost feel and touch, what it may have meant to grow up like that.

And I especially love this piece:

This is my new defining thing: to be an insider of a romantic minority that chooses winter island life over city rhythms and urban philosophy.

The truth is that you are never an insider in a closed Greek island society and that if most locals had to choose a word that underlines their concept of life, it wouldn’t be the word romantic. As Harrison Ford said to Anne Heche in one of his witty quotes about island magic and romance: “It’s an island, babe. If you didn’t bring it here, you won’t find it here.”

I do not know which island the author is writing about. And it doesn’t really matter. Maybe it is part of the charm, that I don’t know. That way it will alway stay a little mysterious and magic.

Last week I took a spaceship (a ferry) from my star to another star in our constellation. Paros.
I had developed an interest to visit Paros and especially Naoussa because I feel that homeschooling – as it is now – is not a long-term solution. I am too alone and too isolated for that.

It takes a village to raise a child and I am still looking for my village. My people who share some of the values and mindset. People who can support me and whom I can support.
I had this back in Estonia – I had the most wonderful little community of close friends that mean the world to me. We grew up together as mothers and women and although most of us are not friends from childhood, it feels like we have known each other forever. And I do miss them. But my calling was here. I needed to spread my wings and come to Greece. So here I am again – starting from zero to find my village, my people.

But back to homeschooling. I have been looking around for a good school for my girls and honestly – seeing the Greek school system, I was not very optimistic. Last year I was about to enroll the girls to  a Montessori school in Warsaw. But our plans took another turn.
So when I found out, that there is actually a Montessori kindergarten and after-school club for primary school kids in Paros – LinguActive/LinguaKids – I was astonished. I did not expect that I can get everything, that I want – the wonderful life on a Greek island, a good school for my girls and good friends for all of us. But I seem to underestimate the magic that happens to me in Greece.

Whenever I came to Greece through the years, it seems like some Genie was at my disposal. Your wish is my command. You want to learn yoga – go ahead, one of the best teachers in Greece is basically at your doorstep. Want to learn more about meditation? No problem. We’ll make it happen – a Buddhist monk will come to your location and teach. Want to hear and see inspiration? Here you are – for two weeks you will meet one inspiring person after another until you are so filled with gratitude, that it makes you cry. Want to experience again, what it feels to be a teenager in love? That wish will also be granted.

Greece is spoiling me in the best possible way and this trend seems to continue. I just have to know, what I am looking for and sooner or later it will happen. So finding a Montessori school on the neighbour island was another miracle in a row of mysterious events that seem to guide my life.

We spent three days in Paros. Three intense days filled with so much laughter, passion, discussions and some more laughter. I had forgot how much I miss that. My life here in Santorini is nice and beautiful but I do not really have a lot of friends here yet. I am sure that there are so many inspiring people on this island too, but maybe coming here was not about making new friends but about taking a break from social interaction. 

The beginning of the trip was not promising. The ferry had to leave earlier because of a bad forecast for weather. So boarding the ferry I was smiling through my teeth, thinking, what if the storm will come earlier. The storm waited, but the rain did not. Just as it was time to get off the ferry, it started pouring cats, dogs, pocket knives and little boys. And rain too…
I did not have time to think much. Our wonderful host was there, waiting for us with an umbrella. And from that point things started to get very much better. Although the weather stayed bad.

The short experience in Paros was all about social interaction. I loved every minute of it. Yes, it was sometimes a little tiresome. Social contact almost 24/7 is always that. But at the same time I felt like I had found a well in the desert. I just kept on drinking and drinking those moments of joy and love for other human beings. 

The girls also found friends and had a chance to visit the school and art-class. Most of the time I didn’t really see them, because the lovely daughter of or host basically adopted them from first sight.

I think there is a good chance that in spring, when I will have to give this house up, we might continue our life on Paros. We have time to weigh our options and read the signs that life gives us. But I promised that we will visit again and maybe next time it will be so, that I can start looking for a home there.

I am painting this image in my mind already… I am thinking about a simple but comfortable, light and airy space with a good fireplace. I think about space for the girls to play and me to have my own peace. And a space in between to meet and enjoy life. Cook meals from the local food, play, have guests and spend warm summer evenings as well as cozy winter nights. I trust in the magic that has carried me here – if Paros is the place, where I am supposed to go, that home will also appear.

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About enforcing the positive

When it comes to people in our lives, we tend to take a lot for granted.
We just assume that parents and siblings will always be there. Our spouse is supposed to support and accept us. Our kids will forgive and forget when we are not fair and anything good they learn, they’ll always later point to us, saying – my parents taught me that.

Sometimes we forget that in life there are no guarantees. Everything may happen and nothing may happen. And a lot of it is up to us. We have to work every single day for the relationships we have, or we may lose them.

One thing that I am learning here is the concept of always enforcing the positive. If you make the positive bigger, the negative will seem smaller and more insignificant. If you enforce the positive, it will multiply.

I grew up in a way that I was always kind of expected to perform good. At school and home. That was the norm. If I did good, it was considered normal and thus not worth talking about much. Of course you get an “A”, why wouldn’t you? Of course you helped clean up the apartment, that’s what you are supposed to do, why give praise? On the other hand, if I did anything less than perfect, that was not acceptable. Scowling and nagging later led to fights, and I grew to be that talented lazy kid who could do so much but is secretly so afraid of performing less than perfect, that she will skip doing the task altogether.

I think the first time I fully realized, how much I am affected by this, was in the university. After scoring a fabulous “B” in one of the most difficult exams during my whole study time (pathological physiology, sounds bad right?), I called my mother. I told the great news, and guess, what the answer was? “Why not an A?” Like really!?

In a way this approach gives you certain confidence. Of course I’m good at everything if I really put my mind to it. Going to a job interview? Sure, no problem. I can be so confident because I know – I would be the most ambitious, suck-up “teachers pet” kind of employee. Always overachieving and probably seriously annoying to my colleagues. But what if I fail?

The downside of this approach is that the mere shadow of a failure will paralyse me. Anything less than perfect, is not good enough. I am not good enough. I will rather do nothing than risk the slightest failure. Even today writing this blog, I find myself in the same place. If I get good feedback then I will be afraid to write the next piece. What if it is not that good as the previous?

So it is like a SPA treatment for my overachieving self, when my dear friend is here and teaches me, that I am good enough in everything. Better than good enough. I am great just the way I am. At first it felt like just flattering. Then it felt uncomfortable – what’s with the compliments, you have me here, why keep on trying? And then slowly I started to see how it is not about flattering or trying to please my ego. It is about multiplying the positive. The more I hear that I am beautiful, the prettier I get. It is as easy as that. And actually I do not need anybody else to say that.

Go to the mirror. Look at yourself and start listing all the things that you like. And do that often. Soon you’ll realize that there is so much good that the less good does not matter. Look at your kids, your spouse – what do you like about them? Let them know that. Tell them about the seemingly most insignificant things that you appreciate about them. And really mean it. It does not work if you say empty words.

You’ll always find, what you are looking for, so look for the good.

I started to see how I act the same way as my mother once did. When my girls do something good, I may smile and nod approvingly. Or sometimes just take it for granted. But if they forget something or if they are impatient, whiny or just silly when it’s time to be serious (in my opinion), I will let them know for sure in a strict and demanding manner.

So I decided to give it a try and start paying more attention to the positive. No matter how small or big. Whether it’s academic achievement, being considerate to others’ needs or helping me. I try to remember to always notice, be grateful and most important – to let them know about it! It seems so logical and natural when I write about it, but in real life it really needs focus and perseverance to do that. Because we are all slaves of our habits and giving praise is not one of mine.

One night I was doing my usual gratefulness meditation before falling asleep by being generally thankful about the good in my life. And then I had this idea – what about being more specific? What do I like about my family and friends. I even listed all the good things I liked about my ex-husband which made me wonder why did I decide to leave him at all?

I think I am slowly learning to let the people around me know, why exactly I love them. I try to multiply the positive, to make the negative less important.