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Fundamentals - Part #2 - Trust and Home

Dear friends, I hope your year is off to a great start! Find below Part #2 of Fundamentals: My End o

Letters from Zeynep

January 5 · Issue #29 · View online
Weekly letters that nurture you to find everyday wellness.

Dear friends,
I hope your year is off to a great start! Find below Part #2 of Fundamentals: My End of 2020 Reflections. Today I will share with you about Trust and Home.
Stay tuned for Fundamentals Part #3 - Family and Burnout. It will arrive in your inbox in a few days. 💌

My partner and I starting dating at a time when I had just moved to Paris. He had been in Paris for much longer than me, and honestly, he was quite sick of it. Around the time we were moving in together, we discussed moving away of Paris but I couldn’t bring myself to even consider it. I had just got done with my move a year ago, and I did not feel like I could move again. It was too soon. So we stayed. It proved to be a wise decision: My second, third, and fourth years in Paris were all better than the previous years. By staying a total of four years, I truly settled into and enjoyed my life there.
At the end of 2019, my partner started getting really restless. 
We were also at a different place now: we wanted to be closer to nature and closer to both families in France and in Turkey, we wanted to start a family, we wanted more space (an office, an atelier, a guest room…), we were sick of paying rent (we wanted to own), and we did not want to pay 10,000€ per m2 for a tiny Parisian apartment. As much as it broke my heart to say goodbye to this city that helped me heal, create, and find myself, I now had other values I cared about equally. It was clear that a life in Paris was not going to give me nature, family, space, and financial sense on a daily basis. So I agreed to the heartache of saying goodbye to my friends and places in Paris.
We spent the last months of 2019 and early months of 2020 talking about many options: Berlin, Lisbon, Istanbul, Urla (a small and hip sea town in the south of Turkey), and the south of France. Our jobs had become mostly remote by this time, and we felt free. Our friends thought we were a little “too free”; the different options we had on the table did not make sense together. There didn’t seem to be a common thread among them. While we saw the common thread (our excitement for living in each place), to be fair, we also felt lost. Having lived in big metropolitan cities all my life, would I lose my mind in the countryside? Given the prices, could we really have more space in a city? Were we going to spend 1-2 years in one place, then move to the next? Were we going to do shorter-term rentals, hopping around every few months? What about laying roots in a place? Didn’t we first need to move and explore the place, in order to buy? We talked about many scenarios and they all seemed to confuse us more. We had a vision for how we wanted to feel and which needs we wanted to meet; we couldn’t figure out its operational and practical side.
The image that we kept coming back to was a life split between France and Turkey. We knew in the long term, especially with family members getting old, we would have to travel back and forth between the two frequently. Staying connected to this longer-term vision helped us manage the frustration and the confusion. Me being a product manager and him being a product designer also helped a ton. We had met when working at BlaBlaCar and we had experience moving through complex projects together. We were familiar with the divergent phases of the double diamond: Things always get more confusing before they get clear. Questions are first more open and broad; they then become more specific and defined.
We kept going back to the drawing board.

The famous Double Diamond of the design process
The famous Double Diamond of the design process
A funny thing happened around May in the midst of our decision-making agony. We heard that the house my partner grew up in was suddenly available - the renters moved out. This house was 10 minutes by car from our family in the South of France. It wasn’t the house we wanted to live in but the rent was half of what we paid in Paris and it would allow us to discover the region and explore buying. So we packed our things in July-August, moved out of our apartment in Paris, and moved to the South of France! It was amazing to have more space, both inside and outside, and to be in the midst of nature and family — for half the rent. 
In October, we were making plans to travel to Turkey for 2 months to see my family, and another funny thing happened. We heard that the apartment I grew up in was suddenly available - the renters moved out. We decided to rent this apartment instead of the expensive and small AirBnbs we didn’t feel good about. Then we decided we might as well rent it indefinitely and have a base in Istanbul!
Within a span of 4 crazy months, our confusing questions were answered. We now had two homes for the price of one in Paris: one large house in the South of France and a large apartment in the city of blue. We had access to nature. We had access to the city. We were close to both families. We lived in the midst of both cultures and countries we deeply love. We had the fundamentals we needed. This felt like a great step forward. We were now in a new iteration (to speak in design terminology) of our lives; we were going to learn new things about what we wanted and where we could go next.
I don’t know how many more times I need to get this life lesson before I fully trust it: things work themselves out. They organically fall into place while you’re obsessing with answering big life questions. You just need to keep your eyes and heart on your long term vision, stay active, stay active in the thinking process, and be awake to any arising opportunities around you. The agony, the research, the indecision, the frustration are all a part of this process too. It is possible to feel all of that, and feel a deep trust in life at the same time. 
This is what I want to remember more: trust. 
Fall in Istanbul
Fall in Istanbul
I spent too much time at home this year, just like the rest of you. There were moments I went totally crazy, and I’m not even an extroverted adventurer. My perfect afternoon might be a nap, a tea, a deep conversation with a friend, and a great book. This year I got sick of sitting in the same corner of the same room for hours at an end. 
While I had a great and never-ending stillness at home, I also moved twice! I left a home I was in love with in Paris, and I moved into two new empty homes, one after the other. I had a lot of time to remember the fundamentals that make a house: a bed, a fridge, a washing machine, a table, a desk, a library, plates, cups, kitchen utensils… I also reflected on what turns a house into a home: being able to share the space and your process with those you love.   
We serendipitously found ourselves in the homes in which we grew up as children. Neither my partner nor I imagined we would ever live in these homes again. With this twist of the universe, I discovered new stories those around me had attached to these two homes. The house in Drôme was built by Papi in the 1950s when there were no other houses around. Papi and Mami raised their four daughters there, after which of one the daughters moved in with her family, and my partner was raised. The apartment in Istanbul was already full of my childhood memories. I could picture the many different furniture arrangements we had over the years, the warm and nice moments shared, as well as the ugly and heavy. Yet I still discovered new stories of my mom moving in there as a young couple with two kids. She told me that she decided to buy the apartment when she saw how the sun rays generously filled the living room. They had little when they first moved in with my dad, and it took them years to be able to buy some basic things like a couch. My mom sewed a large cushion for the floor (the Turkish way), and that was their couch for two!
A home is an interesting place: it’s a place we take years to build, the place where we collect and lay our stories, and yet, it’s the place we take for granted. This year I felt more gratitude for our homes. I enjoyed the sun rays in the living room in Istanbul who had been consistently generous the past 30 years. Electricity felt like a wondrous thing when it took two weeks to set it up. Being able to grate carrots was joyful when I could finally buy a grater. I even enjoyed cleaning our toilets after Thich Nhat Hanh’s amazing story of no toilets in Vietnam.
Once it is made, home is where we come to rest and to replenish our life energy. Resting at home wasn’t straightforward this year. I worked and created only from home. No more crowded cafes with coffee mugs and people in the periphery of my computer. No more rooms I could rent in central Paris for mindfulness meditation classes. No more taking my readings to the park. I became more creative in how I use my spaces. The same corner at home evoked a sense of work when dressed a certain way, and a sense of relaxation when dressed another. 
I thought of David Whyte’s words as I did housework all year long. In an essay in Consolations, he had this poetic way of describing housework as a necessary part of a creative life. He was urging us to consider how work and life would both be meaningless without the rhythm and chores of a house to take care of. Thich Nhat Hanh echoes the same teachings in his books. He says he couldn’t be a poet without washing the dishes. He couldn’t wash the dishes (and enjoy them!) without being a poet. This year, I had the chance to start or fold laundry in between calls, cook lunches or dinners in weird hours of the day, clean and tidy as our spaces got dirtier and messier with us both being at home all the time. David Whyte and Thich Nhat Hanh were both very right. These were not “chore”s. They had become a grounding part of my day.  
I spent many hours looking out this window
I spent many hours looking out this window
For Your Reflections
  • Are you trying to answer any big life questions? What does your process look like? What tools or attitudes are you employing?
  • Why does trust matter to you, if it does?
  • Where in your life could you trust more?
  • What did you discover at home this year?
  • Which parts of your home do you take for granted? Which parts do you cherish?
  • What’s your relationship with housework?
Thank you! ❤️
Thank you for reading! I hope you will write back and share your reflections.
If you missed the first two parts of Fundamentals (Reading and Community), you can read them here.
Stay tuned for Fundamentals Part #3 (Family and Burnout)! It will arrive in your inbox in a few days. 💌
In the meantime,
  • Are there are any mindfulness concepts or teachings you’d like me to write about and explain? I’d be happy to make them the topic of an upcoming newsletter.
  • Would you like to meet me and explore how mindfulness can help you? Go ahead and schedule a free 30 min chat!
With love and care,
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