This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Completed: Day Zero Project

skeletoncoast-3Ever wished you could do this and try that and go there – without any of the wishes ever coming true? Why do we spend more time dreaming than making dreams reality? Why do we speak of wishes “coming true” instead of “being made true”?

I wrote the above three years ago, but it stands true today. And September 2017, one year ago, my Day Zero challenge came to a close. In January 2015 I set out to accomplish 101 things in 1001 days. Did I accomplish them all? No, because I listed quite a few major bucket list items to choose from, such as let go of past grief, learn a new language, and undertake major trips. But I accomplished 56/100, with another 6 items marked “in progress”. And I managed to visit the French Riviera not 1 time but 3 times, and same goes for practicing yoga on Bali. I found I loved those two places so much I kept going back. Perhaps without the Day Zero challenge I would still not know exactly what I have been missing out on.

Was it worth it? For sure. Otherwise I would probably not have spent a rainy day in bed in my PJs, watching movies and learning to knit socks. Or taken a ride in a hot-air balloon. Or accomplished some financial goals. Or traveled to Bali or trekked on the Everest Base Camp trail.

Life is not a rehearsal. You are the star of your show, every day, regardless of whether you are up for it or not. Trust me, the past few years I have mainly not been up for it. Yet life has happened anyway. It tends to do that, every day. We can choose to either drift down-current, or rig the sails, list our goals as bearings, and use life’s unpredictability and impermanence to change what we wish changed, and do what we always dreamed of doing.

So list your goals and begin doing instead of dreaming. For inspiration, here are my completed goals. And by the way, I am, too: already working through a 101 Goals, Vol. 2.

2015 completed
  1. Host a board games night (we made this an annual tradition with my cousins)
  2. Learn to knit socks  (still wearing the ones I made!)
  3. Make candles
  4. Spend a rainy day watching films in my PJ’s
  5. Get back in touch with 2 old friends
  6. Spend a weekend at a spa by myself
  7. Make jam
  8. Travel to New England
  9. Crochet a quilt
  10. Find a career mentor
  11. Get an Indian head massage
  12. Install a mirror in the hallway
  13. Have a hot stone massage
  14. Go back to Kathmandu
  15. Read my old journals
  16. Clean out my wardrobe  (this expanded into KonMari’ing my entire apartment)
  17. Go to the French Riviera  (goal completed 3 times)
  18. Eat at a Korean restaurant
  19. Complete a coloring book
  20. See a performance at the Helsinki Music Center
  21. Hire a cleaning maid  (one of the best decisions of 2015)
  22. See a play at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London
  23. Find a penpal and write real letters  (I found several!)
  24. Read all moomin books
  25. Practice yoga on Bali (goal completed 3 times)
2016 completed
  1. See a Broadway musical in London
  2. Throw a tea party for ladies only
  3. Watch a meteor shower
  4. Take classes in yoga philosophy
  5. Have a picnic on an island
  6. Photograph the sun from the equator
  7. KonMari my apartment
  8. Tie a note to a balloon and let it go
  9. Ask 20 friends to suggest one book, and read them all (I loved this one)
  10. Learn to make Limoncello
  11. Install a sliding door to my bedroom
  12. Go trekking in Nepal
  13. Have a picnic on the beach
  14. Travel by train instead of flying (took the train from Paris to Biarritz. 5 hours)
  15. Influence a person to make a Day Zero list
  16. Visit Riga again (took my mother along)
  17. Get a new wristwatch (ended up being my uncle’s wind-up watch from the 50s)
  18. Visit a Buddhist monastery (both in Nepal as well as in the French mountains)
2017 completed
  1. Read 20 books per year
  2. Ride in a hot air balloon
  3. Visit Zanzibar (where I learned how to dive!)
  4. Join Earth Hour every year
  5. Save up 5000 euro either in cash or stock (this turned out to be much more)
  6. Do an annual detox (á là Gwyneth Paltrow – and I found I loved her (expensive) cooking)
  7. Go to the dentist once a year
  8. Collect 1 investment gold coin per year
  9. Volunteer with dolphin research again  (I ended up spending a month in Namibia)
  10. Watch a Cirque du Soleil show  (in London)
  11. Visit an observatory  (in Helsinki)
  12. Pay off student debt
  13. Put away $10 for every goal completed
In progress
  1. Find joy  (mostly completed in 2018)
  2. Attend a TED Talk event  (completed fall 2017)
  3. Let go of past hurt  (mostly completed in 2018)
  4. See the opera Aida  (completed spring 2018)
  5. Learn French  (switched to Spanish in fall 2018)
  6. Read all books on the 106 books of pretension list  (completed fall 2018)

(Brande, Denmark; September 2018. Photo from Skeleton Coast, Namibia; July 2017)


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106 books of pretension

ramsesbookLovely ones, do you remember the meme doing rounds on blogs in 2008, called “The 106 Books of Pretension”? It was a list of the top 106 (why one-hundred-and-six?) books marked “undread” by Librarything users. The “pretension” referred to books considered classics, or modern classics, that were actually unread by many avid readers and literary aficionados.

Out of the 106 books I had perhaps read around 35. I saved the list, and started reading the remaining 70+ books. I told myself, this is a list of books a civilized person should have read during a lifetime. There were books I had managed to skip during high school English classes. Books that had recently been made into movies. Books that many talked about the moment they were published – and the talk never ceased.

I discovered the curious stories of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell; and of Cavalier and Clay. I found I loved Dostoyevsky and Neil Gaiman, and that the great Grapes of Wrath bored the wits out of me. But most importantly, I exposed myself to once-revolutionary thoughts; great stories; and incredible minds. Book after book I explored thought-worlds that changed the world we perceive as real. Censored books like Madame Bovary. Slandered books like Lolita. Shocking books like In Cold Blood. Classics like Homer’s Odyssey. And I realized that often we repel insurgent views because we hate to be told by a visionary storyteller. Books much hated have become books much respected. It was not the book that changed, but the collective mind and the world around it.

Only four books I could not finish: the Iliad (an account of who fought whom and how they died); Gravity’s Rainbow (I thought I would love this one! Did not get past 150 pages); The Silmarillion (come on, can you really blame me?); and Tess of the d’Urbervilles (what is wrong with me??).

Finishing off this list of 106 books was part of my Day Zero Project. I can now tick this goal off the list, after 10 years of reading (not with perfect adherence to this goal). The list of the top 106 books tagged “unread” at Librarything has changed surprisingly little: 95 are still on the list today. What a great shame as most of these books really are gems worth the effort.

For your reading pleasure, here is the original list from 2008. Have fun exploring 106 new worlds.

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  2. Anna Karenina
  3. Crime and Punishment
  4. Catch-22
  5. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  6. Wuthering Heights
  7. The Silmarillion
  8. Life of Pi
  9. The Name of the Rose
  10. Don Quixote
  11. Moby Dick
  12. Ulysses
  13. Madame Bovary
  14. The Odyssey
  15. Pride and Prejudice
  16. Jane Eyre
  17. The Tale of Two Cities
  18. The Brothers Karamazov
  19. Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
  20. War and Peace
  21. Vanity Fair
  22. The Time Traveler’s Wife
  23. The Iliad
  24. Emma
  25. The Blind Assassin
  26. The Kite Runner
  27. Mrs. Dalloway
  28. Great Expectations
  29. American Gods
  30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  31. Atlas Shrugged
  32. Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
  33. Memoirs of a Geisha
  34. Middlesex
  35. Quicksilver
  36. Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
  37. The Canterbury tales
  38. The Historian : a novel
  39. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  40. Love in the Time of Cholera
  41. Brave New world
  42. The Fountainhead
  43. Foucault’s Pendulum
  44. Middlemarch
  45. Frankenstein
  46. The Count of Monte Cristo
  47. Dracula
  48. A Clockwork Orange
  49. Anansi Boys
  50. The Once and Future King
  51. The Grapes of Wrath
  52. The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
  53. 1984
  54. Angels & Demons
  55. The Inferno
  56. The Satanic Verses
  57. Sense and Sensibility
  58. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  59. Mansfield Park
  60. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  61. To the Lighthouse
  62. Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  63. Oliver Twist
  64. Gulliver’s Travels
  65. Les Misérables
  66. The Corrections
  67. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  68. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  69. Dune
  70. The Prince
  71. The Sound and the Fury
  72. Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
  73. The God of Small Things
  74. A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
  75. Cryptonomicon
  76. Neverwhere
  77. A Confederacy of Dunces
  78. A Short History of Nearly Everything
  79. Dubliners
  80. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  81. Beloved
  82. Slaughterhouse-five
  83. The Scarlet Letter
  84. Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  85. The Mists of Avalon
  86. Oryx and Crake : a novel
  87. Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
  88. Cloud Atlas
  89. The Confusion
  90. Lolita
  91. Persuasion
  92. Northanger Abbey
  93. The Catcher in the Rye
  94. On the Road
  95. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  96. Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
  97. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
  98. The Aeneid
  99. Watership Down
  100. Gravity’s Rainbow
  101. The Hobbit
  102. In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
  103. Treasure Island
  104. White teeth
  105. David Copperfield
  106. The Three Musketeers

(Brande, Denmark; September 2018)


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In questa tomba

operaI have a bucket list that contains 101 goals in 1001 days. A so-called Day Zero Project. While chasing items on this list I have dipped myself into various experiences. Seeing Verdi’s opera Aida live has been one of the most elusive ones; surprisingly, as it is a classic. But suddenly there were a few performances at the English National Opera in London.

I convinced a colleague to come along. He took me up on the challenge and flew over to London carrying a tuxedo, which he duly put on for the occasion. After Aida and her misfortunate lover Radamés had been buried alive in a tomb forever,  I reminded him that this was probably the most tragic opera every written, and that he should not make up his mind unless he saw another opera where people did not take quite as long a while to die as these two.

It turns out that the translation of this production was quite different: the famous line uttered by Aida’s lover upon his discover of her (“in this tomb!”) was missing. And instead of dying a slow long death in the tomb, Aida and her Radamés are apparently seeing the light, “a new day”.

Such an admirable attitude. The glass is half full even when one is buried alive forever in an Egyptian burial tomb.  Quite the benchmark.

(ENO, London, United Kingdom; November 2017) 


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101 things in 1001 days: year 2

everest

(2nd peak from the left: Mount Everest; last peak to the right: Nuptse)

 

Ever tried to make a New Year’s resolution that failed? Ever wished you could do this and try that and go there – without any of the wishes ever coming true? Why do we spend more time dreaming than making dreams reality? Why do we speak of wishes “coming true” instead of “being made true”?

I wrote the above one year ago, but it stands true today. And today is another year down on my Day Zero challenge: to accomplish 101 things in 1001 days. I have learned how to make limoncello, trekked in Nepal, had picnics in various places, and finally got myself a new wristwatch (without purchasing one!). I did my best to go to the observatory for stargazing, but the winter weather was not having it and showed no stars behind the clouds from January to March. I also tried to go on a hot air balloon ride, but unfortunately the weather and my calendar never matched. Here’s to hoping for better luck in 2017.

Having a list is certainly not the only way to experience new things, but I hope I can inspire you to start realizing your dreams and goals instead of just dreaming of them. Here are mine marked as “done”, the second year in:

  1. Ask 20 friends to suggest one book, and read them all
  2. KonMari my apartment
  3. Take classes in yoga philosophy
  4. Photograph the sun from the equator
  5. Go trekking in Nepal (Everest Base Camp trail until Namche Bazaar)
  6. Influence a person to make a Day Zero list
  7. Have a picnic on an island
  8. Watch a meteor shower
  9. Travel by train instead of flying (from Paris to Biarritz)
  10. Install a sliding door to my bedroom
  11. Tie a note to a balloon and let it go
  12. Learn to make Limoncello
  13. Throw a tea party for ladies only
  14. Visit Riga again
  15. Have a picnic on the beach
  16. Get a new wristwatch (my uncle’s watch from his teens)
  17. Visit a Buddhist monastery

+ about 17 goals in progress, including doing another annual detox, making sure I do an annual checkup at the dentist, and the hot balloon ride. (For year one, look here)

Another new year has arrived. How will you spend each of its days? Doing the same things you always do, or trying out the new things you always wanted to do?

(Helsinki, Finland; January 2017)


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Between the equator and the sun

Processed with Snapseed.Greetings from the fattest place of the Earth – or rather, from the stratosphere some 35,000 feet above it. After missing this goal both in Brazil and in Kenya, I am finally checking off one of my Day Zero Project goals: to photograph the sun from the equator. I would say this counts.

(Above the equator and the South China Sea; September 2016)


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101 things in 1001 days

101goals-1Continuing the streak of more personal notes and the conundrum that each new year poses us. Ever tried to make a New Year’s resolution that failed? Ever wished you could do this and try that and go there – without any of the wishes ever coming true? Why do we spend more time dreaming than making dreams reality? Why do we speak of wishes “coming true” instead of “being made true”?

Sometimes it can be much quicker to make a dream come true than dreaming of it – especially if it comes to sending out that dinner invite or booking that flight or concert ticket.

Last spring I spent my nights coloring a coloring book. I also went to the Helsinki Music Center, had an Indian head massage, and finally went to the French Riviera. During this year I have managed to realize my dream of practicing yoga on Bali, of spending a weekend at a spa by myself, and going through my wardrobe. The challenge is called 101 things in 1001 days and is the core of the Day Zero Project.

My list is far from done – but it’s a good start for the first year. Having a list is certainly not the only way to experience new things, but I hope I can inspire you to start realizing your dreams and goals instead of just dreaming of them. Here are mine marked as “done”, one year in:

  1. Host a board games night
  2. Learn to knit socks
  3. Spend a rainy day watching films in my PJ’s
  4. Spend a weekend at a spa by myself
  5. Make jam
  6. Travel to New England
  7. Crochet a quilt
  8. Find a career mentor
  9. Get an Indian head massage
  10. Install a mirror in the hallway
  11. Have a hot stone massage
  12. Go back to Kathmandu
  13. Read my old journals
  14. Clean out my wardrobe
  15. Go to the French Riviera
  16. Complete a coloring book
  17. See a performance at the Helsinki Music Center
  18. Hire a cleaning maid
  19. See a play at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London
  20. Find a penpal and write real letters
  21. Eat at a Korean restaurant
  22. See a Broadway musical in London
  23. Read all moomin books
  24. Practice yoga on Bali
  25. Make candles
  26. Get in touch with 2 old friends

+ about 15 other things in progress, such as joining Earth Hour every year, learning how to make limoncello, going to the dentist every year, and paying off my study debt.

Life is not a rehearsal. You are the star of your show, every day, regardless of whether you are up for it or not. Trust me, the past few years I have mainly not been up for it. Yet life has happened anyway. It tends to do that, every day.

Stop dreaming. Start doing. And do kindly let me know if I inspire you to make a list of your own – so I can mark yet another goal as “done”!101goals-2 (Helsinki, Finland; January 2016)


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Why I spend my nights working on a kids’ coloring book 25 years later

coloringbookDid you ever find you never got to do that simplest little thing you always wanted to do? Or how you haven’t got a single step closer to a big dream that always hovers so close but not close enough to do something about catching it?

I always wanted to complete a coloring book from start to finish. The past three years I have been yearning to see the French Riviera in spring. I still have not experienced the (relatively) new Helsinki Music Center, and there are many books my friends have recommended that I still have not read.

Until this spring. This spring I have read all Moomin books, completed a coloring book on horses, gone back to Kathmandu, and seen a concert at the Helsinki Music Center. I also have a trip to Cannes in my calendar, an Indian head massage scheduled, and I have read 3 books out of 20 that my friends recommended to me. All thanks to Day Zero Project. 101 goals in 1001 days.

What an adventure it will be to stay a night in a treehouse, go to St Helena with the Royal Mail liner ship, and learn to make Limoncello. Why not live a little with me? List your goals and live today.

(Helsinki, Finland; March 2015)