hygge 52

It’s my birthday this week. I feel like I probably used the phrase, “Someday when I’m 52…” at some point in my early adult life. I am sure in referring to ’52’ I was denoting an old age. But just like every other 52-year-old who has ever stood in this number, it feels young and lucky and yes, confusing at times. But overall, there is a welcome sense of settlement that comes with your 50’s.

At the strike of midnight on December 31, people make resolutions for a better life. A little less this, a little more that. All worthy aspirations. I have the same thoughts each year as my birthday approaches. What will this year look like? What will change? What will stay the same? And as the past few years have included: Will there be a hospital visit this year? -yikes and fingers crossed for NO!

But this year as I have mulled over the additions or subtractions I want to make, my mind keeps snapping back to one thought: What if right now is enough? 

In 2004 I had a close friend who shared a very similar mindset as me. We had teenagers at home and life was busy and complicated. But we happened upon a blog by Alex Beuchamp called Hygge House. The word ‘hygge’ has become very popular lately. I’m not sure what took it so long to catch on, but like all pendulum swings, it was bound to have its time in the sun. But in 2004, few people had heard of the word. RuAnn and I used it often, referring to quiet, simple moments of joy in our respective days.

Hygge as described in Alex’s blog…(the words RuAnn and I fell in lifelong love with):

Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special. Hygge doesn’t require buying anything. It simply requires being present and recognizing a moment that feels so sweet, cozy, charming, special or nice that you just have to name the moment.

So whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it every morning, to a cozy evening in with friends where you’re just enjoying each others company, to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal. Hygge is being aware of a good moment whether it’s simple or special.

Some refer to hygge as an “art of creating intimacy” (either with yourself, friends and your home). While there’s no one English word to describe hygge, several can be used interchangeably to describe the idea of hygge such as coziness, charm, happiness, ‘contentness’, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness.

Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness and the undefinable feeling of Hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate or acknowledge and to break up the day, months or years. With so many cold, dark, days, the simple act of a candle glowing with a cup of coffee in the morning or a home cooked evening meal with friends can make a huge difference to one’s spirit.

By creating simple rituals without effort {such as brewing real tea with a little china cup every evening to stopping at the flower shop every week} the Danes see both the domestic and personal life as an art form and not drudgery to get away from. They incorporate hygge into their daily life so it becomes a natural extension rather than a forced and stressful event.

Hygge is about being present enough to recognize and acknowledge an act, moment or feeling when the ordinary feels extraordinary.

‘Hygge’, ‘minimalism’ and ‘wabi sabi’ are three words that seem to be defining my new year with greater clarity. I have embraced these words in the past, but this year feels different. (wabi-sabi: represents a Japanese aesthetic described as one of beauty that is imperfect.)

I laugh – and understand – at my husband’s balking at the word ‘minimalism’. When I suggest a book or movie that has minimalism at its core he says the same thing: “But they are always so preachy about it.” 🙂 And I get that. I have weighed that view when thinking about this blog post. But let me make one thing super super clear: As I embrace this idea for myself, it does not mean I believe everyone should accept it as their aim in life. It also doesn’t mean ‘never make a purchase again’ or ‘live on bare necessities’. What is important to me is the idea of being aware of the beauty that is already around me.

Let me give you an example: I am a big fan of Instagram. (like, BIG, big!) The limitless inspiration on Instagram is invigorating and challenging. And I am someone who thrives on ideas and inspiration. Pinterest is another method of gaining ideas. (Erin Loechner, in her book Chasing Slow, says Pinterest is creating a generation of ‘someday’ thinking, not ‘now’ thinking.) But as much as I love Instagram, occasionally I find myself slipping from ‘inspiration’ into ‘I want that’. You know who taught me this lesson best? Rae Dunn. For those of you not familiar with Rae Dunn, her pottery is unique and specific. Her mugs and kitchenware have big words etched into them.

As someone who appreciates fonts and lettering, I really liked her stuff. But here’s the thing: Rae Dunn has become a phenomenon. TJ Maxx and Home Goods can’t keep her stuff in stock. Partly became it’s popular and people rush the stores to buy more for their collections, but mostly because some people are buying absolutely everything in the stores and selling them for TRIPLE the price online. Scott recently said, “Rae Dunn has become the Beanie Babies of the 80’s.” And he’s right! I posted the above picture and put out the word to my friends to be on the look-out for Rae Dunn when they were shopping. I had people in other areas of the country shopping for me. With each new post on Instagram of someone buying a new Rae Dunn piece, my want grew bigger.

And then one day, I stepped out of the commotion. The craze for Rae Dunn was running me, not me managing it. I was suddenly content with what I have. If I run into a piece that speaks to me, I will still purchase it. But visiting our local TJ Maxx every other day is just a ridiculous way for me to live.

As I type out that example, it seems rather inadequate in explaining my approach to 52. Just to say, Instagram can be used for stimulating inspiration and is an excellent method of gaining new ideas and perspectives. It is also a great space for gaining new friends. But it can also feed an insatiable desire for more. For different. For change.

I love chai tea lattes. The days when they seem to be spicer than usual, are the best. The warm first drink of chai opens up my senses and kick starts my day. Sharing a chai with my fellow chai-loving friend, Monica, makes the drink even more special. If we’re drinking the chai in Rae Dunn mugs – great! But it’s the company that matters. It’s the quiet moments when I’m waking up to the beginning of the day – that’s what is important. It is a daunting observation to think that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, yet it was their desire for more that led to their loss of everything.

I am tweaking my Instagram just a bit to celebrate and document small pleasures. The description under my name now reads…

hygge: the art of creating a life filled with simple pleasures and loving what you already have.

That describes my thoughts and wishes for 52. Enjoying adventures. Being present with friends and family. Resting in quiet moments. Making life less about accumulation of things for the sake of accumulation, but cultivating items of importance and meaning. Sometimes that will be a new mug. Sometimes that will be a free visit to the museum. Sure, there are things I would like to do more of and things I would like to do less of. But for 52, I’m okay with imperfect wabi-sabi. Peaceful hygge. Morning walks. Spicy chai and long afternoon shadows. Looking around and being content with what is.

There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less. – G. K. Chesterton

I don’t know where 52 will take me. But I am sure, 52 is going to be just fine.

Continuing to learn,
Hygge G


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