Reframe Your Focus: and Claim Your Life Abroad

I was a guest as Trova Expert where I shared my expertise with a webinar titled: ‘Reframe Your Focus: and Claim Your Life Abroad’.

The webinar explored why people move to other countries, whether by choice, such as: a new job opportunity, education, or seeking adventure or forced circumstances such as war.

The information provided here will help you reframe how to view your circumstances so that you have the most significant opportunity to be content and thrive in our new environment in another country.

You can watch the recording on this link.

Trova Health is in service of expats. I argue the difference between “expat” and “immigrant” in an article on my personal blog, which you can find if you click this link.

the Norwegian Work contract

crop businessman giving contract to woman to sign
crop businessman giving contract to woman to sign
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

If you are in the process of getting a job in Norway, there are a few things you should know about the work contract you need to sign.

First, you need to have the identity number and a Norwegian bank account. Do not even think of working without having these two in place because you are asking to be abused by careless employers if you do. It is also your responsibility to care for your work conditions when it comes to employment law, duties, and rights. It shows that you are interested and know what you stand for. It is best if you also have a valid work permit. 

At the same time, a contract can also help you get both the ID number and the bank account if you come from the EU or other areas of the world and are a skilled worker. Find more information about it here.

To work in Norway without a valid work permit can lead to expulsion. It means you’ll be chased out of Norway. In addition, the employer who chooses to use people without proper permits can be punished with fines and prison. 

The contract should be signed latest one month after you start working. Yet, it is best if you sign it before. Since Norway is a society based on trust, if you have your identification number in place and the Norwegian bank account, it can be acceptable to start before that. Do your homework and do some research about the company hiring you. How serious they are and if people working there are content with their leaders.

The contract should contain the following information:

  • Trade name and description of the tasks you’ll have to perform. Some may be vague and expect some changes within the frame of the working task. This allows your employer to make use of your abilities inside the company. It can be a good thing, and it will enable you to also come up with ideas that are not listed in the contract. It is important to know that you can use this argument when it is time to renegotiate your salary. Usually, you can do this in your annual performance meeting (medarbeidersamtale), yet there can be other appropriate times.
  • A time limit. When the contract starts and when it ends. If it is a permanent position, it will say that it is “fast stilling”. Temporary work can be up to four years. Be careful here because I have seen contracts that say, “hourly based permanent contract”, which can sound like an exclusivity contract. If the company needs you, they will call you, yet there is no guarantee. Make sure those “details” are clearly explained. 
  • How long is your notice if you resign or are fired. It can be from one month to three months.
  • Trial period. A time, usually six months, in which you can see if the company likes you, your work, and if you fit into the work environment, and just as much if you like the company, your work there, and the work environment
  • How much holiday do you have the right to? Usually, it is 25 working days – five weeks. 
  • How many hours a day you’re supposed to work. The standard rate is 40 hours for 7 days/max 9 hours a day. Each trade has its overtime rules. Please get familiar with those rules. The best way to do it is to join a union. You can read about more reasons of why it is good to join a union here.
  • When you are supposed to work: during daytime, shifts, night, etc
  • Where you’re working: an office, will you be traveling from place to place, etc. 
  • Your salary which the law can regulate “tarifavtaler”. A union can also help you here as well. 
  • The date of the month you’re going to be paid.

Always, always read the contract before you sign it. If you do not understand the language, ask for help. Do not sign something you don’t know what it says. 

Do not accept to work while you do not have a Norwegian bank account and receive the paycheck in some other people’s accounts. No matter how good friends they may be. 

In addition, your employer needs to do some things: 

  1. Must declare you in the employee’s register (A-registeret) and pay taxes for you. 
  2. The employer also needs to keep your tax money from your salary and pay them to the government.
  3. Needs to pay you at a specific date in the work contract. The money should come into YOUR bank account: not in cash or nature, or whatever else their creativity may allow. 
  4. Make sure you get a document with your income every month (lønnslip).
  5. At the end of the year must send you a document in which it is listed your annual income, how much you’ve paid in taxes and how much holiday money you have accumulated Årsoppgave).

If you don’t get all that, then something is wrong. And, by the way, this what it should be stated in the work contract everywhere in the world.

On the other hand, as an employee with a contact, you also have some duties.

  1. Respect the working time.
  2. You cannot travel to visit your country of origin whenever you want; you need to make sure that you discuss that with your leader. Your holiday also depends on your colleagues, because if you’re a part of a team, then your absence will affect them.
  3. First-year of work, you don’t have paid holiday. If you decide to take it, you won’t be paid for it. 
  4. Contribute to the work environment by who you are and what you know how to do as a person. Make sure you have some hobbies you can talk about and interests on you free time. Those will get you far in building friendships. You can read more about how to make Norwegian friends here.

About how you get to the contract, you find more details on Work In Norway site. Click on it and you will get more info. And if you want to try your luck in one of the most remote and exotic city in the Arctic, click here.

Best from

P.S. If you want to know more about the unspoken details in the Norwegian culture you can sign up for my “Norwegian Letters” newsletter here.

Tromsø businesses need people!

mountain beside body of water with aurora borealis
mountain beside body of water with aurora borealis
Photo by Tobias Bjørkli on Pexels.com

One thousand four hundred eighty-eight (1488) vacancies and an unemployment rate of 1,2% in Tromsø today (April 27th 2022) indicate an enormous need for skills. Vacancies you can find here: www.arbeidsplassen.no 

NAV Tromsø has a free course on looking for jobs and writing CVs and letters of intent.

The course is intended for people outside EØS, yet it is open to everybody for the moment, since there are available spots. The course is in Norwegian, yet NAV will ensure you have an interpreter if you need it. Therefore, it will be an advantage if you apply early to get a spot and an interpreter. 

It is designed to be followed from Monday to Thursday from 12:00 to 15:00, for four weeks, as follows: 

June 6 – June 30. Apply for it here

August 22nd – September 15th – Apply for it here

October 10th November 10th : Apply for it here

This is a rare chance to get this kind of intensive help in your job search process. You will be applying for real jobs, you’ll get the right language in place and you’ll also get interview training. IT’S ALL FOR FREE!

You also need to be in Tromsø so you can follow it. If you can plan ahead, you’ll be here for the fall, and you can join from August.

If you are in the process of getting the job and signing the contract, you find information about what the work contract should include here.

If you have a company that needs to hire, NAV Tromsø has also created a direct number for you so you can get in touch with them and get more information on how you can proceed to include more people in your working life: 407 29 746. It is essential to look around at unemployment and see refugees and others outside working life as an essential resource for business.

You also find good help as a business if you join the Chamber of Comerce and/or NHO Arktis. Speaking Norwegian is an advantage though, in this process.

PS. If you are interested in social life and unwritten social codes, feel free to sign up for my newsletter on Life in Norway here

TRUTH @ work

We are all PEOPLE, and some may argue that we are ALL THE SAME.

At the same time, the FAMILY, and the CULTURAL CONTEXT we are born and raised in work like a FILTER we see the world through, for the REST OF OUR LIVES.

In “Truth @ Work” podcast, led by Christi Scarrow, I am speaking about some of the FILTERS I see in the multicultural environments I walk through every day.

These FILTERS could be used and applied by each leader leading a multicultural team. Seeing your team members as the humans they are, with all that they bring with them regardless of if it is written in their CVs or not, can be the key to a loyal, productive, and well-motivated team.

Check out the full interview HERE.

how to deal with war?

city man people woman
city man people woman
Photo by Artūras Kokorevas on Pexels.com

I know it is a strange question. How do we deal with it when we don’t have any personal experience? 

I grew up with war stories. My father was born in December ’39, in trenches, and he never knew his father, who went to WWII while my grandmother was pregnant. It is not easy to imagine how a widow with three children (my father being the youngest) survived the war. Nevertheless, we heard stories as children. Stories about German and Russian soldiers who needed food and would do anything to get it. Soldiers who were also missing their children left behind and would seek some comfort in holding my father since he was perhaps about the age of their children. And then they would move on to die or to live, leaving behind women and children robbed of the little food they had, yet alive.

My mother’s side of the family also carries war scars from a grandfather raised by the army. Widows like my grate-grandmother could not afford to keep all their children, and they would give them away to the military. At least they would get food and clothing. When he learned I was going to study in the North of Norway, he told me that he have been experiencing both the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun while traveling with the army through Russia, up to Murmansk. I think he also spoke some Russian, yet I never heard him speak it. What I heard was the classical music that he was playing since one of the things he learned in the army was to play the horn in the army’s orchestra. Keeping the soldier’s spirits up was also important at the time.

He came back alive and married one of the many girls of a widow who survived the war – my grandmother. They were some of those many people who helped rebuild the country after WWII.

I am not alone with this kind of story. Many people from southeast Europe have similar stories. After the war was over, the communist experiment started in Romania (Ceausescu’s version), influenced by the great power in the East, USSR. That was the only place people could travel in those times and Russian the only foreign language taught in school. 

War was always present in our upbringing through my parents’ attitudes and behaviors, who learned survival skills growing up with the war, like my father, or building the country after it, like my mother. Practical skills and little emotions. No time and place for such frivolities. We are generations who experienced “second-hand war” through our parents and grandparents. 

The war in Yugoslavia was also close in the ’90. The borders were closed and the news was censured until 1990, therefore people didn’t understand what to do with what was told on TV. The politicians at the time had managed to keep the country out of the conflict though.  

In the past 30 years, some of the new generations in Romania, who did not experience either the war or Ceausescu’s communist regime, are making a “psychological revolution”

Many read and educate themselves within the field and started to talk about how war and dictatorship experiences (death, rape, hunger, anger, etc) were sent through generations and how they influenced them. 

They are brave young people who dare take a deep dive into themselves and their family histories and try to heal whatever they can, so they won’t give the wounds further to their children.  

Since February 24th what we thought is in the past became present and very close to Romania’s borders. I hear that tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees have passed through Romania on their way to more stable countries and with a more significant distance from the conflict. 

I see on social media stories from my friends who got involved and are helping the best way they can. At the same time, I live in Norway, a country that is also neighbor to Russia. Until further notice, we are supposed to carry on our lives as nothing happens. Yet I cannot help not noticing Coast Guard ships passing through the fjords every time I drive to the office. Nor the trailers that are carrying military equipment to the nearest military point that was supposed to be disabled. 

I cannot pretend the war in Ukraine is not happening. Nor ignore the newspapers articles from all sides talking about a “true” story about what is happening in Ukraine and Russia. A “truth” perhaps we may never find out.

At the same time, what can we do to deal with war so close to home? I managed to find about 11 points that may help, yet there can be much more. Please add them in the comments.

  1. Work and live as “normal” as possible for the time being. Keep yourself busy.

2. Talk to other people. At the same time, I experience that people who ask me or Ukrainians or Russians or Polish people how we are, don’t want to listen to the answer. They are in a much bigger hurry to tell us how they feel. Because this is how they deal with their fear.

People who are asking how others are so they can speak about themselves we see around us every day. It is a coping mechanism and a “social skill”. So my suggestion would be: don’t ask people how they are if you don’t mean to listen to them. If you need to talk, say it: “I need someone to talk to”, and I am sure people will listen.  

3. Do not watch the news, except for specific times in the day, so you can give yourself time to process the information you’ve already got. Choosing the source of information can also help in getting some accurate ones. 

4. A cold head is good to have in such circumstances. Do what is needed wherever we are, instead of getting emotional and creating scenarios in our heads about a future we do not know anything about yet. War is unpredictable, no matter what diplomacy says. I don’t think the world leaders were prepared for the one in Ukraine. War and its consequences are practical. Yet, to be able to deal with its practicalities, people need to be strong psychologically.

5. Flexible mindset helps, and use of words which would place the mind on a non-catastrophic path: “I choose”, “It’s bad, yet it’s not the worst”, “I don’t like it, yet I’m doing it anyway”, – are formulations which keep the mind in a less comfortable place, yet survival and active one, with a good chance of turning positive. 

6. Make a distinction between behavior and the human having it, when speaking with people: “your behavior is less fortunate” instead of “you’re so and so…”, and I don’t need to mention any less positive words some of us can call people around them. People are good. Behaviours are bad, and they can be changed with will and work. 

7. A detached attitude can also help: “I can’t do anything about it anyway”; “Nothing can happen to me/us”; “It’s not here yet”, and so on. At the same time, there is always something we can do in this digital world within the detachment. I am sure we can write, share resources, provide the information we may know, translate if we speak several languages, volunteer, and more. 

8. Talk to children about the war in a way they will understand. Explain as honestly as possible the emotions we have as adults, and which may occur in the process. Naming them for children and accepting them within ourselves will help them also understand what they are going through. Accordingly to their age, it is good to make references to bedtime stories, films, and books they may be familiar with.

Emotional regulation is a challenge both for children and adults, at the same time, the adults are supposed to be responsible and be able to take care of their feelings and the children’s. We also know that children are survivors and good at hiding feelings. Therefore, paying attention to their eating and sleeping patterns, and the degree of fear and shyness in the presence of other people can help detect if they are really ok.

9. Take care of yourself, if you can, with everything that implies: healthy food, sports, sleep, meditation or prayer, routines, social circle, and whatever makes everyone have a sense of meaningful life. All this will help approach the situation from a better standpoint, and a feeling of control.  

10. Think of a social network. Where can you go for help and when? Who are the people you can trust? Have a plan. Check the municipality’s websites for practical information they may have.

11. And last but not least, if you are an immigrant, do not take the war with you. Remember that leaders make wars, not ordinary people who decided to leave the bad leaders anyway. Now they live in the same country as you.

If you come from a country with lousy leadership and a flawed political system, you are not responsible for it, even if you voted for them. The same goes for people coming from other countries.  Throwing bad words to people from the country your leaders decided to go to war with, knowing that the locals won’t understand the language you’re speaking in, is not very elegant nor says something good about you. If you support the political decisions in your country of birth, it can be a good idea to keep it to yourself while you are an immigrant in another country.

If you need to talk about this war issue that is affecting us today, do let me know on this link

Wishing you Peace!

How to make Norwegian Friends

man on skis and dog walking in snow
man on skis and dog walking in snow
Photo by Jenny Uhling on Pexels.com

This is a question that just popped up in my e-mail.

It is not easy to make friends among Norwegians, yet, it is not impossible. Do not let yourself be scared about the icy faces and without expressions. Behind that Ice Wall, they put upfront, you can find volcanos of feelings. All you need to do is to be patient until the ice melts. After that, you’ll be surrounded by it as well. Then, you may find out that it is not easy to get out of it.

The key to making friends in Norway is “common interests”. This means that you should have some hobbies and find a group of people you can practice them together with. You’ll have lots to talk about on that particular subject. Therefore it will not be weird for Norwegians who do not ask personal questions because they do not want to intrude or because this is considered impolite in Norway.

Another thing you can do is to volunteer in various organizations. Find a cause that you are interested in (poverty, environment, politics, women issues, knitting, singing in a choir, dancing, climbing mountains, parachuting, ice skating, skiing, getting a dog, etc) and find a club or an organization that deals with precisely that. Join for the activities they have, and you’ll get to meet whoever is there. You can find more information on frivilig.no. Just type the city you live in, and see what’s available there and what is needed.

Each neighborhood or complex of houses or apartment buildings has a board administrating it and taking care of the buildings. All that is volunteer work. Join the one that represents the building you live in. It is an excellent way to learn how volunteer organizations work and get to know the people there. They have meetings at least once a month. That is a good opportunity to meet them often enough, so they have a chance to get to know you.

Making friends in Norway depends a lot also if you came to Norway alone or together with your family (spouse/children). I have noticed that if people come together with their spouses and do not have children, they tend to stick together and not go many places to meet people. So it doesn’t help to learn the language either if you only stick together.

Couples who have children can make friends easier through their children. They meet other parents at kindergarten and school and extra school activities their children join. If you are good with children yourself and offer to take care of Norwegian children, then you’ll be popular, because lots of parents need breaks and time for themselves. And, if you took care of other people’s children for some time, the parents will also take care of your children from time to time. It’s like a trade that allows you to get to know people. Children and school activities are also a great subject to talk about.

When you have a job, you can see if your colleagues are open to making new acquaintances and eventually new friendships. Some may be, some not. It will help you a lot if you speak about your interests and hobbies. They will know what you like, and eventually, if they have the same interests, they will invite you to talk more about it.

You can also make dinner for your colleagues and invite them home.

If you find out that you cannot break through to your work colleagues, the best thing is to find things to do on your own first. Find other foreigners who perhaps have been in your town longer than you and advise you where to go and what to do. There are many FB groups with foreigners. Just ask there who is from the town you live in and see if they want to meet. Remember that friends who are also foreigners are better than having no friends at all. If you are determined and show up in places where Norwegians meet, you will find the right people for you.

It is difficult for Norwegian adults to make new friends in a new place as well. In my experience, from people I know, it took those about ten years to make new friends among Norwegians in the new town. And the friends they made were also people who were new in town. This is because Norwegians do not believe in “friends on the way”. They believe in friends for life. This is why, even if they live in a different town than the one they grew up in, they can still say that they only have one friend or a handful, and those are the buddies from primary school and high school. They do not call people “friends” very easily.

If you come as a student, you’re ok, because student life is always very social. At the same time, be careful not to stick only together with international students, but join the cafeterias and the clubs’ Norwegian students attend, so you’ll also get to meet Norwegian students. If they are freshmen, they are just as alone as you are in their first year, and they are just forming groups of friends. You have a big chance of being part of those groups.

I hope this gave you some ideas about how to meet Norwegians, even if they are not going to call you “friend” very soon. As long as you are present in their lives, if they see you often enough, they will learn that you are also part of the community and become friendly towards you.

Good luck with making Norwegian friends, and if you want to receive more insights on the Norwegian awkwardness, sign up for my newsletter on this link.

Best from

9 needs you may want to be aware of

worried young woman sitting near broken automobile at roadside in countryside
worried young woman sitting near broken automobile at roadside in countryside
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Have you ever thought of what is it that you really need so your life can be beautiful and worth living?

When we are born, we are very much in touch with our bodies and emotions. We know when we are hungry and look for mum’s breast or bottle. We know when we want to sleep, and we sleep. We know when we want to pee and poop, and we do that, regardless of who’s around. So for the first five to six months of our lives, we do not care who is watching what we are doing; we follow this cycle which we see on baby clothing: eat -sleep -poop -repeat. And we are entirely dependent on adults around us to help us in this process. We need them to feed us, change our diapers and eventually put us to sleep in a relatively comfortable place. 

Research shows that the most comfortable place for a baby to sleep is on parents’ bodies, so they can get help to regulate their feelings by hearing mum’s or dad’s heartbeat. These two are the ones children are used to, even since they are in mum’s belly. Our body is our emotional monitor, the only place to feel them. Yet, we learn soon enough to shut it down because we need to survive and adjust so we won’t upset the adults around us because we cannot survive without them. 

Depending on how emotionally receptive the parents are, children develop a healthy emotional life or start living in their heads instead of balancing between emotions and mind. This is how human beings begin to ignore many needs they have, which may not be satisfied: by ignoring the body, who’s trying to give hints of what a human may need, through the feelings. 

Unfortunately, our society is just beginning to discover how this world of needs and feelings works and eventually how to deal with it. Psychology is a young science, and emotional education is even younger as a concept. 

I am suggesting here nine needs human beings may have, and only a few are aware of them: 

  1. The need to be seen and validated by other people. We need encouragement and to see that what we do is ok. 
  2. The need to control something or someone in our lives. Usually, when there is a lot of chaos around us, we tend to lean into a hobby, where we feel we have control, or other people can lean into body control and diets. The body is the only thing one can feel a measure of control over. We see it in small children who protest against their surroundings by refusing to learn how to use the pot or peeing in bed when they are older. This last one is not done consciously. It is a sign from the body that it feels insecure, and the child needs more certainty in its life. 
  3. The need to rest. We may often be exhausted. Tiredness can be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sensitive, or creative – depending on which kind of activities we are engaged in. At the same time, it is essential to be mentioned that emotions can provoke physical tiredness because strong feelings “hurt” physically. 
  4. The need of doing something meaningful. Adults feel it often. Why do we do what we do? Meaning of life does not have to be in our job. We have jobs (which pay the bills) and work (which gives us meaning for living our lives). If we can combine those two and do our work in our jobs, we are lucky. 
  5. The need of having the energy to do all the things we want to do. When we have big dreams and get overwhelmed by them, we need to break them into small pieces to feel that they can be achievable and we have energy for them. We can also pay attention to what we eat because food is medicine, and according to how appropriate the food is for our body, we will have energy. We also need to sleep enough for our bodies. Lack of sleep leads to a lack of energy. We also need to move every day. Depending on each body, it can be cleaning the house, walking for 45 min, doing some sports, dancing, etc. The idea is to move. Because movement also brings energy into our bodies.  
  6. The need for practical support. We need help with whatever we need to do because we can’t manage everything independently. Therefore, asking for help is essential and saying no to tasks we feel we cannot do. 
  7. The need for emotional support. We need to talk to family, friends, a group of people, a therapist, or a coach. There is a difference between the two of them. You find out which if you click here
  8. The need for intimacy. We need good words, touch, moments of vulnerability to share with someone. Choose wisely when you decide to be vulnerable in any way, and lean into people who can support you in that need. 
  9. The need for pleasure. Life can be joy, and we can find small pleasures every day: a good coffee; a walk in the park or the sun; a warm bath, a good book, good music, spending time with someone dear o us. All these small things are available to us; we need to see them and make them worthwhile. 

What do you need? What is it that you can do, so you can live better with yourself? 

As adults who decide to move abroad, these needs may be challenging to satisfy at the beginning of the new place. At the same time, we need to remember that many people move abroad because some or all the needs I mentioned above are not fulfilled in the country of birth. Therefore, it is even more important to be aware of what we need and fulfill those needs in the new place we decided to move to. As adults, we are solely responsible for taking care of ourselves and asking for help, especially when we are on foreign ground. We cannot expect the locals to see what we need. If they are supportive, they may only be as far as their understanding of us goes. My experience is that those who never have experienced living abroad will seldom know what immigrants need. 

So, if you’re an immigrant, what do you need? 

I can help with need nr.7 – emotional support – if your family and friends do not help you with that. You only need to click here and ask for it.

Best wishes from

To influence and be influenced

When you throw a stone into the water, it makes rings. Smaller and bigger. If you take the time to watch them, you notice that those rings are spreading their waves further and further from the place the stone felt. They can get very far, and it can take a while by the time they disappear, and the water’s surface regains the original flatness.

It is the same with people. We never know how we influence the people we meet and how long they will keep the impression we made on them. We don’t know how they see us either. Accordingly to Albert Mehrabian’s communication model (7-38-55), 7% are words, 38% are intonation, and 55% are body language. In the mirror, we do not see ourselves more than a couple of times a day. Do we know how other people see us? Do we know what kind of ideas we help create in their minds, or what kind of associations they get in their heads about who we are and what we stand for?

This can be hard to control even in a country where we have been born and brought up, and we know the culture and the secret codes and the expectations people may have of us. Yet we do not know much about it when we move to another country.

We can learn to shape words and phrases both in our native language and if we are lucky and put in enough effort, we can also learn that in a foreign language. Yet we do not know how our voice sounds in other people’s ears, and especially when we speak with an accent. It doesn’t sound the same way when we hear ourselves. We don’t know either how our image will influence the people seeing us. Of course, we have dress codes, at the same time those dress codes are different in each country. What is appropriate to wear in a job interview or a party in one culture, may not be appropriate in another country. It may be either too much or too little.

As immigrants/expats, we take patterns of behavior with us, (in our invisible luggage), that were accepted in the culture we know, yet they can be misunderstood and misinterpreted in a new culture.

I know there are many cultures where the “I don’t care about what other people think” philosophy is very well spread. It has to do with how many people are in the respective country, also with status and wellness. It is impossible to make everybody happy anyway, yet it is an expectation in smaller societies, where people depend on each other in a much bigger measure. After all, “what people say about you when you aren’t there” is your “brand”. Therefore, no matter how small or big the number of inhabitants the community you live in has, reputation is important, and it is difficult to control.

Therefore, big companies have people to deal with their image, to make commercials, to “handle” the company’s reputation. But how do ordinary people handle their own personal reputation? Of course, in the world we live today, we also have social media which allows everybody to become a “public figure”, at the same time, can we control how people see us? Not really if they don’t tell us and give us feedback. If we are lucky, we get positive feedback, at the same time the less positive feedback can be useful. It tells us how we can become better, either by understanding how we can integrate that feedback into our behavior and life, or simply by ignoring it if we find that it is not worth paying attention to it. We can choose.

Sometimes the feedback is with words, yet other times is with pictures. Like the one, I chose to place in this article. You have the camera picture on the right, which was taken on Christmas Eve, while I was wearing a Mrs. Clause outfit. At the event I was taking part in that evening, I met for the first time someone I had a fun discussion with, about awareness and how do we use words when we talk about ourselves and with ourselves. It seems that both the discussion and the way I looked that evening had made an impression.

This new person is an artist, a painter, and was inspired enough to make a painting about it. I chose to make a collage of both the painting and the picture of myself from that evening because it is a very good example of how we think we look and how others see us. At the same time, it is also an example of how the painting has influenced me to write this article and use the pic collage to prove a point. It works like a boomerang, somehow. What we give, comes back, and so on.

We cannot control the length of time people keep us or the event or the discussion in their memory either. This painting was made between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and it will always remind both the painter and me about the moment we shared in a good discussion. It may also influence other people who see that picture, without knowing who “the model” was. The model won’t have any control over that either. Eventually, some feedback will come around in some time. If not, I will never know.

Have you ever thought of how other people see you? If you haven’t, have you thought about asking some of your acquaintances whom you know are not afraid to speak up and give you honest feedback? Do you think you can handle the honesty?

Let me know what you think in a comment underneath, or let me know in confidence, by clicking on this link.

Wishing you a good year!

Christmas and New year holiday Story

I hope you are enjoying your holidays, and you will make some time to read a Christmas and New year story.

It is the second Christmas holiday we have spent together with our new friend Corona. 
At the beginning of 2020, I have decided to do an experiment. Every Sunday, I was supposed to write on a small piece of paper one good thing that happened the week that just passed and put it in a jar.

In the beginning, I did not know what to write, but slowly, I started to see that by the end of February, I was already good at finding up to five good things that happened that week.
What do you think happened when Corona came and everything shut down on March 12th? Well, I was happy! I was getting the chance to try working from home in a larger sense than I was already doing it. I was about to try something I had wanted to do for a long time. So, now was finally the right time to do it. So, I considered it a gift. I wrote it down and dropped it in the Gift Jar.

Working from home allowed me to sleep at least one more hour every day. I like to sleep and wake up to feel that I have rested. Each morning after a good night’s sleep, I have that feeling of being able to accomplish everything I want, and I have the energy to do stuff that day that I would have otherwise postponed. Therefore, this kind of morning increased their number, and, of course, they ended up in my Jar.

I live in the countryside, and I drive a fair amount of time every day. Well, I didn’t need to drive every single day. And, since I live close to the North Pole, we had snow until June and a fair number of storms. So, guess who was happy not needing to drive through that weather. Therefore, it ended up on several notes: “Grateful for not having to drive through the snowstorm today”…in the Gift Jar.

Since I was working from home, I enjoyed the beautiful weather every time we had it and even went for a walk in the afternoon. It was a gift as well because I know that many people were not allowed to go outside of their houses during the lockdown. So I was lucky, and that the walks went in the Gift Jar as well.

I also had the chance to speak more often to my family, especially my mother. Like many other people, I have a unique and special mother who is fond of cooking, yet she is very sensitive to the smell of food inside the house.

Since I grew up in a country where spring and summer and autumn are a long time with good weather, we had a garden kitchen, and cooking outside was acceptable by my mum’s standards. But when my mum had to cook inside the house, during winter, we would freeze because all the doors and windows would be open. The stove fan was not enough.

As a good and loyal daughter, I copied this habit and behavior when cooking. Opposite to my mother, I am not fond of cooking, and I’m not doing it often, but when I did, all the doors and windows were open, besides the fan. Well, I found out that one of Corona’s symptoms is losing the sense of smell. So guess who started to appreciate the smell of food in the house? “Being able to enjoy the smell of food in my house, without freezing” ended up on note as well and in the Jar.

I even reached a point when I am smiling when I realize I can smell the cinnamon I like adding on my oatmeal in the morning or the smell of fried bacon and eggs or baked potatoes. And I spoke with my mother about it, and we both laughed because, surprisingly enough, she reached the same conclusion as me: the smell of food and backing in the house is good to have. It tells us we are healthy.

When I write about all these things that ended up in my 2020 Gift Jar, I remember another thing I took from my mum and carried with me across borders, to the country I live in now, and which still sticks to me: my mum’s philosophy over harsh times; when you feel like external circumstances have punched you and you feel like everything is out of control – like this pandemic, which has begun hitting more than once since we are now at our second Christmas in its company.
My mum’s philosophy about this kind of moment is:

“My dear when you’re down, there is no other way to go than up. So, therefore, chin up, shoulders down, relax and think how YOU can make it better for yourself. There is no point in thinking of what you could do with what you do not have. Think about what you can do with what you have”.

This phrase worked subconsciously probably all my life, if I take the time to think about it, and it also gave me the stubbornness to keep thinking of good things that happened this year, not despite, but due to the virus.

When the second lockdown came in 2020, another story with a similar philosophy came to my mind. It was coming from another mother to another daughter in an episode I helped create and which I have witnessed.

Some years ago, a friend of mine invited me to spend the Christmas holidays with her and her daughter. She was working late on Christmas Eve, and she asked me to help her with Christmas presents. She made a list for me and told me the exact shops I could buy.
On Christmas morning, when all of us sat around Christmas three and unpacked the presents, I saw how my friend’s daughter, a teenager at the time, was getting more confused with each package she would open. At some point, she became angry, and she shouted at her mum:

“What is this? Why am I getting the same things I got last year?”

I looked at my friend, and I saw that she was perfectly calm, watching her daughter’s reactions. Finally, she took off her glasses, and she said to her daughter:

Well, you didn’t use any of these things you got last year. They lay around until about February, and then you placed them in storage boxes under your bed. You didn’t even give them away to other kids that could have better use for them. Therefore, this year you get the same things, and I would appreciate using them. Or if not, at least you will give them away.

My friend’s daughter’ got even more confused, but she took her presents and went to her room. I didn’t understand what happened, and I asked my friend what her intention was.

Well, my dear, she needs to learn that life does not give you new gifts and new opportunities until you have used what you already have. Or at least see what you have, look at it, and decide if you keep it or give it away. It’s all about awareness and how conscious we are of what we have and how grateful we are for it.

My friend put back her glasses and continued with reading the massive pile of Christmas cards she had received that year and opened her presents.

This story came back to me again this year together with this new lockdown that we have at the end of 2021. And I started to wonder, what is it that I didn’t use. What do I have, and I am still not using, or don’t know how to use yet, and I need to learn how? What do I need to give away so I can make room for new things/events/people in my life?

What is it that we as humans do not see and are not aware that we have and need to learn how to use or give away?

How about you? Do you know what you have accomplished during 2021 despite or due to Corona, and do you know what you would like to do next year?

What is it that you have and you have not used yet? What more can you do with what you already have and what is it you have, and you can give away?

Let me know in comments underneath this article, or in private, by clicking on this link.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!