Today is supposed to be the last day of my sabbatical. Usually sabbaticals are restful; then again, usually they’re also a paid period of leave. For me, neither of these has really been the case. Sure, I’ve earned a lot of things that money simply cannot buy–a certain sort of peace that I did not have before–but I’ve also worked myself to the point of abject exhaustion on more than one occasion, and the work on the new house (especially my office/studio) seems to be neverending (which is now stressing out the cat, in addition to me!). So instead of this being the last day of my sabbatical, I’ve decided it’s the first day of a new sort of life: a hyggelig life.
Hygge, and by extension, its adjective form, hyggelig, is a Danish/Norwegian concept that has become more than a bit of a fad here in the U.S. over the past year. Pronounced hoo-gah, I first stumbled upon the term when researching decorative motifs for our new home. I wanted a definite coastal vibe (in homage to Njordr, and also so that our house would feel like a permanent vacation-home), but with heavy Scandinavian motifs (so that our whole house would represent our Heathen/Pagan Faith), and a comfy, cozy Mid-Century Modern ease-of-living. When you Google Search all of that, you’ll likely be surprised how often the word hygge comes up. I certainly was, to the degree of thinking “where has this been all my life?“.
Like the word love, hygge has that rare distinction of being at the same time both a noun and an adjective. Also like love, it is a feeling. I’ve heard it argued by some that “if you treat hygge like it’s a verb, you’re doing it wrong”, but honestly, I think it has that in common with the concept of love, too: hygge really isn’t hygge until you can give it away; until you can share it with someone else who is dear to you.
So what in the hoo-hah is hygge? It is a consciousness–a mindfulness, if you will–of being fully present in a moment of coziness, specialness, and that indescribable feeling that is home. In its most basic form, hygge is homecoming. I don’t mean that in the sense of you’ve actually just come back home from having been somewhere else; I mean that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you finally arrive at a place or a moment where you deeply know this is where you belong. You may get that feeling sitting in candlelight drinking a warm cup of tea, or you may get that feeling relaxing on the couch papercrafting. The most important thing is that you build it into your life somewhere. We could all use some hygge now and then….
An interesting thing about hygge: etymologically, it traces back to the term hugr. Sound familiar? You may remember it as one of the four aspects of the Norse “soul”, which I talked about previously in this blog post. The Hugr would best be understood by us moderns as the “inner self”: a person’s personality as reflected in their conscious thought processes; very much in line with the oft-misquoted Buddhist ideal of “what you think, you become”. In a very real sense, hygge is food for the soul. I made a conscious decision a long time ago that that is my business in life: the feeding of people’s souls. But how to do that?
Since we changed the angle of this business to papercrafting and digital art a year ago, it has been no secret that I have often felt very at-sea over exactly how to keep us rolling in that direction, while still remaining passionate about both my business and my life. When we made that change back in July 2016, our initial tagline was Remember To Whimsy. What I didn’t know then, but have discovered over the course of this sabbatical, is that what we really meant was Infuse Your Life With Hygge. Ultimately, that is what every product we design, every blog post we write, and every interaction we have in this business–whether creating votive art, or sharing our spirituality with others–has been designed to do. We want to remind people to live in their most precious moments–those moments of homecoming–and be mindful of the warmth and joy they feel there. We’ve never just wanted to sell people things; we want to give people feelings, that they can come back to again and again.
Most folks are familiar with the old saying “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you can feed him for a lifetime.” I can give you a nifty set of digital papers and elements, and keep you busy for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, but if I can teach you to be mindful of your most treasured moments in the first place, and maybe couple that with a recipe here and there for something yummy to imbibe while you’re crafting, plus ideas for your home that make it a more enjoyable place to craft in, then I can help you find hygge for a lifetime!
Which is why I say today is not the end of my sabbatical, but instead the beginning of a new, hyggelig life. It’s a life I intend to share with all of you, and hopefully spread the hygge as liberally as butter (or in my case, cheese!) on bread. But before I can help you learn to infuse your lives with hygge, I’ve got to start the process of infusing my own. That starts with the “unplugged mornings” that I promised myself when we first moved in; mornings which I was doing a great job with for the first week we lived in our new house. After that first week, however, I fell sick, so I’ve been sleeping in most days. On top of that, I have a rather unrealistic gaming schedule that keeps me up til 1am four nights a week–which doesn’t exactly promote getting out of bed before 9am! Sleeping late means that by the time I finally do crawl out of bed, I’m in an urgent rush to hop online and let my Beloved know that I’m okay, which then leads to being locked online til noon. So my real day doesn’t start until 1:30 in the afternoon! On most days, that means I have around three hours to get everything I want to get accomplished in a day actually done, which isn’t nearly enough time to do those things without feeling like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs! Needless to say (I hope), that leaves very little room for hygge.
So I would like to invite all of you to join me for unplugged mornings. If that means you have to get out of bed a bit earlier than you normally would, by all means, do so: it’s worth the sacrifice. Wake up, stretch, make yourself a cup of hot tea (or coffee, if that’s more your style), and then just sit and drink. Most importantly, remember to enjoy that moment. Bask in it. Depending on your work schedule and everything else, it may be one of the few such moments you get all day, but it gives you a touchstone moment that you can come back to again and again throughout the day, when things get nuts. Leave that cell phone on the counter; leave that computer in the other room; don’t turn on the TV. There will be plenty of time for those things later. For the length of that cuppa, just be present in the sweetness of that moment; just be you and the tea (or coffee, as the case may be). This may seem like a trivial change in your schedule at face value, but like that famous quote from the movie The Crow, nothing is trivial…..