Not A Travel Blog

When asked what I write about on my blog, I always respond with a tentative “lifestyle things?” although I don’t really know what that means.  I started writing here 8 years ago and since I’m free from all pressures of monetizing the site, I’ve never defined my genre. Content marketing has a powerful gravitational pull and I’d like to keep this corner of the Internet free of all gimmicks, content gating, and gotchas.

What I do know is that this is not a travel blog.  My husband and I currently call Saint Petersburg home and we hope to travel more than we normally would over the next few years, but this will still be my place to share my musings on the world around me, which just happens to be in Russia right now.

Moving to Saint Petersburg has felt like becoming a child again.  I’m slowly sounding out words on buildings as we walk by them, am fascinated by the bright colors of the buildings and parks, and it takes so much longer to do simple tasks than it feels like it ought to.  Just charging my phone is a 3 apparatus ordeal.  And there is the child-like wonder to it as well.  New sights and sounds amaze me and each day is a new adventure as we explore the town, transportation system, and shops.

Daily life here so far is very similar to life in the States on a large scale, and very different in many minuscule ways throughout the day.  The downsized toilet paper and circle electrical plugs, for example. Differences that are neither bad nor good, just different.  These small changes were threatening to throw me off-kilter (is this what they call culture shock?) until I read this passage from C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet:

It was only days later that Ransom discovered how to deal with these sudden losses of confidence.  They arose when the rationality of the hross [a being from a different planet] tempted you to think of it as a man.  Then it became abominable–a man seven feet high, with a snaky body, covered, face and all, with thick black animal hair, and whiskered like a cat.  But starting from the other end you had an animal with everything an animal ought to have–glossy coat, liquid eye, sweet breath and whitest teeth–and added to all these, as though Paradise had never been lost and earliest dreams were true, the charm of speech and reason.  Nothing could be more disgusting than the one impression; nothing more delightful than the other.  It all depended on the point of view.

By no means am I suggesting that Russians are extraterrestrials, rather, I’m realizing more and more how similar we all are.  But moving to a foreign country can feel like an other-worldy experience and I’ll drive myself crazy if I’m finding the small differences “disgusting” instead of appreciating things for how they actually are and finding the similarities delightful.  As Lewis put it best: It all depends on the point of view.

I’m a big believer in dreaming and doing but reality is a  strong force to be reckoned with. Our expectations about what reality should look like often cause us to be disappointed when life doesn’t deliver.   I’d rather rejoice in the ways it gives me joy instead of constantly comparing reality to what I think it ought to look like and ending up feeling like everything is just a little bit (or a lot a bit) off.

Strangers’ Smiles and Sunday Sweaters

I am consistently astounded by the friendliness of people I don’t know.  Today, I have pinpointed why a smile from a stranger can make my day when nothing else can.

That person I passed on the sidewalk had no obligation to smile when they saw me.  I wasn’t making awkward eye contact, I didn’t initiate the smile, and they didn’t feel a need to greet me because I’m their lab partner’s sister’s roommate’s neighbor.  We were strangers until the smile.

I am consistently delighted by Sundays.  Some of my friends have dedicated themselves to doing no work on Sundays in honor of the Lord’s day, and I respect them very much for it.  For me, Sunday is a wonderful day to not have the pressure of five meetings in the afternoon and two exams and one quiz during the day.  It is a wonderful day to start with church and allow myself to be by myself or with others or spend a few minutes doing nothing or getting work done so I can thrive and not just survive during the next week.  Rest is highly underrated.  I always insist on wearing a sweater on Sundays.

Sweaters mean comfort and peace and contentment.  Sundays are a good reminder of what every day should contain.

The Difference of 20 Degrees

There are some words that I consistently get mixed up.  Depends and matters.  Affect and effect. (does anyone get that one right?) 11 o’clock and 1’oclock. (I might alone on this one…)
Thermostat and thermometer.

It’s not that I don’t know that there is a difference between a thermostat and a thermometer, I just can’t remember which one is which at a moment’s notice.  The difference is huge though.  One sets the temperature to what you want it to be, the other just records things “as is”.  The same goes for joy and happiness.

Joy is not conditional on the test you just received, if someone looked at you funny, or if the weather is nice outside.  Happiness can be a conditional emotion.  It’s too variable and easily affected to be depended on for any type of self-evaluation.

Joy is a conscious decision.  It goes hand in hand in contentment but steps up the game a bit.

Joy is rejoicing in the things that don’t change (i.e. God’s love for us, salvation, undeserved grace,etc…)

Joy is built on a peace that is derived from God, not simply an absence of troubles or drama.

Joy is a gift and a goal.  It is not earned.  You don’t have to buy 32 boxes of cereal and mail in box tops to receive it.  It also isn’t going to be parachuted from a magical Joy Jet and land in your lap.  It must be pursued and sought after and protected, because joy is easily stolen.

It can be a daily struggle to be consistent in joy.  It’s far easier to keep checking the thermometer because there is nothing you can do about the weather.  Choosing joy takes intentionality and effort.

For me, consistency is more of a curse than a struggle.  There is always a large part of me that stays the same no matter what is going on around me.  This works greatly for me in my favor as it tends to neutralize the possibility for anger or disappointment or frustration or stress.  Yet being consistently apathetic is like setting your thermostat to 60 degrees and never changing it.  There is no value in that, unless you like wearing three sweaters at the same time all the time.

Today could have been a lukewarm day.  There was no reason for it to be a bad day, however.  Mediocre didn’t seem like a favorable option either.  Sticking with a good day felt like settling since I am alive today and have a God that loves me and am surrounded by so much beauty.  Today, I have decided to set my thermostat to 80 degrees and leave it there.

If I can be consistently unconcerned, than I may as well be consistently joyful.