Lately, I’ve been seeing the word Hygge (hue-gah) everywhere, particularly in my favourite magazines that focus, naturally, on simplicity, countryside and everything we associate that with. Hygge is the Danish equivalent to my mind of Feng Shui – that means ubiquitous, open to interpretation not to mention pronunciation and a fleeting trend. Unlike Feng Shui I can get with Hygge, the concept seems simple enough: burn candles (tick); relax (tick); spend time with family (tick); minus gadgets (er, hold on a minute!).
The goal of Hygge is to be happy, live well, live simply. I like the idea that it is to be embraced as a part of your lifestyle. Zeroing on the little things which add up to satisfaction and well I get that to a point. Every morning, it’s a little hygge. I have the pleasure of driving my daughter to school down the Wigmore Road and as we approach Whitcliffe there we get to drink in the dramatic views over the town of Ludlow with Clee Hill in the distance. And, it’s quite a painting, one that changes every day. It can be shrouded in mist, transformed by dark clouds or suffused with golden light. If we leave the house bad tempered that vista always improves our mood.
Of course, I feel lucky that this is my life now. There are many things I don’t miss about life before in London: the crowds, the lousy train journeys, feeling under pressure. However, sometimes I do worry about how to sustain our lives here financially without the real tools and knowledge of what most people do around here, which is farming – self-sustaining or otherwise. People always mention opening a business but I have a hard time thinking of a commercial business/service I can offer to a scattered population of frankly older people who don’t need the trappings you would find in a larger city – else why live here? That’s the charm after all. Then I begin to hanker for my old professional life, where I get a regular pay cheque; daily dressing up; hanging out with colleagues and getting validation from professional achievements.
Old life, new life
Then I realise happiness and satisfaction don’t figure into the wishing for what I had before. It’s my old job or keep it small and stay happy. To compare, I once had a senior job in the City where my boss insisted I be at the office at 7:30 am although he knew I was a single parent. My daughter was two at the time and it was an exercise in lunacy. We were on the first train to London every morning mercifully only a 20-minute ride. I would rush across London Bridge with my daughter strapped into her stroller to the Barbican where there was a nursery that opened at that insane hour. She was the first to arrive and I would hastily dropped her at the door with one of the nannies and run across town to get to the office at 7:45. She was always amongst the last to leave. Needless to say I did not survive that job for a year and I hated every single second of it including my boss.
No way do I miss that kind of lifestyle. However, there is still a reality to living in the countryside and if you’re not a farmer, independently wealthy or at least have the means to live genteely as if you were a Jane Austen character, then it is a bit of a challenge.
You have to think laterally. I think it’s got to be small living, perhaps finding a job within reach that is a lot less pressured and that helps you to keep things ticking over. That will allow you time to be creative and active, space to bond with my girl (sometimes without the gadgets) in other words – hygge.
I’m thinking that maybe to make my life here, I have to come to terms with the limited types of jobs available. I have to stop wishing for the same pay cheque and lifestyle while wanting to live in the country side.
On balance, I prefer to relax and to do the kind of activities in a place that give me pleasure. I know I’m fixating; in my last couple of posts I have been focusing on this need to enjoy myself while I’m relaxing. Much harder than it sounds folks.
I tried to explain this to my mother, who lives in New York and still doesn’t have a clue why I have moved so far from a City and is constantly asking however will I support my daughter and myself. I offer her as much comfort as possible by saying sincerely that I am happier. I suspect though that if she drove down Wigmore Road with me then she would have an answer to the first and while I am still trying to figure out the second, I’m going to throw caution to the wind and embrace hygge. So I think at least the next couple of posts will be focused on the how.