How to love everything in your life
This is a twin post for Why discipline is toxic.
Let's start with your environment.
Credit to Marie Kondo because most things here are from her book. (a summary here but i suggest people to read the manga or watch her show for more details)
Don't clean just to clean. Clean for your self. Why do you want to live in a clean environment? Be very specific. (Wanting to feel less stressed, wanting to feel organized, wanting to be surrendered by things you love etc)
When you clean, remember why you do it. You do it out of love for your own person because you want to feel comfy in a clean space. (Or any other reason) Just don't think you have to clean for the sake of cleaning. There are so many reasons why living in a clean space can be great.
Look at your things and remember why you like them. Kondo suggested keeping around things which "spark joy". The thing is, when you do this, you feel happier because you like everything. Suddenly folding clothes is nice, moving books to their place is nice, keeping papers only in a certain spot brings happiness etc.
Don't think of this as a chore but as an activity to relax. Folding clothes is origami, doing the dishes can be avatar water bending style, cleaning cupboards can be a puzzle for organization etc.
Walks can be intimidating when you're alone but...
Try looking for a nice place in your city. Try finding beauty in a common spot. Try looking at things like you're a tourist fascinated by everything. Or an alien, that works too.
Look at the nature. The sky is always different yet beautiful. The sunlight is delightful, especially in the morning. Doesn't the grass look enchanting and makes you want to have a picnic? When you see the same things daily, it's difficult to see them as something special every day. Try learning that.
Walks are good for your body. You walk around to relax. It's an act of love for yourself.
What's something you like about that activity/task? Find something, anything. Maybe you like how fast you can type and look at it as a game while you write emails. Maybe think how pretty food looks when you have to cook. (Anime moodboards help a lot with this) Perhaps you like the happiness people display when you help them with your job.
Try thinking it's an important task and how would you teach someone to do it. Everything is worth teaching and sharing knowledge seems to be a love language many have.
Maybe you don't like the task in any way, how about the feeling you have when it's done? Or the activities you can do after you're done? Think of the pleasure you have once the task is done if the task itself is so unlovable.
Worth mentioning, think of the concept of everything having a spirit. (this way of thinking is popular in witchcraft and Shintoism) won't you enjoy thinking the fairy next to the pile of dishes will he happy they're clean? Maybe it likes the dish soap's scent. Your imagination/perspective can make a task fun.
When you dislike someone, write a list with what you dislike about them. Then write another list with tasks you love/like. Try to make the like list as long as the disliked traits list.
For your friends, ask yourself why you like them? Is it the way they listen to you when you need? Is it the silly sense of humour they got? Is it their optimism? Bonus points if you tell them your every once in a while why they're important to you.
Write a like/love letter. Not in a romantic way but in an appreciation way. No need to give it to them. Just write it to see what makes these people special in your eyes.
Strangers, try to think they are undiscovered treasures. You can always learn something from anyone. You don't have to talk to new people, but this way of thinking will make you seem more invested in what they have to say.
You can write yourself love letters~ really, when was last time you took time to appreciate your own beauty?
Avoid criticism to your own person. Yes, you can make mistakes. No, you shouldn't be cruel because of the mistakes.
Do daily something that makes you happy.
How to actively make you happy
You can find love in everything and everyone. There's always something to appreciate in people and there are always certain emotions which are triggered by things or concepts. (The smile of your friend, the fluffy fur of the pet, the pretty decoration of a cake, the softness of your blouse etc) Just pay attention around you.
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I have been thinking about writing a cute, floaty Shadowgast first kiss since at least February, possibly even earlier than that, but it didn't fit in any of my WIPs. Then I realised that I could write it as a standalone, so here you go. Beta'ed by @dawl-and-dapple in trying circumstances; thanks for your service, friend 💜
Eventually, incredible as it sounds, there’s an after.
After all the adventuring, after saving the world, after figuring out how to ensure their safety and continued survival. There’s an after, and there’s a them.
Things are good. Maybe as good as they’ll ever be, definitely beyond Caleb’s wildest dreams. They are alive, and they are together, and they’ve had a Conversation, and for the next couple of weeks after that they just exist together. Somehow — and it’s not an easy feat — they manage to convince each other that they deserve a break.
So, not long after the Conversation, there’s a cottage on the Coast, which is more like a fancy shed, which leads Caleb to cast the Tower often. There are long, sleepy days, long, quiet nights, and long conversations that span them both; there are shared books and stories and knowledge.
And there’s Essek not exactly flinching every time Caleb touches him, but not not doing that either.
He always ends up leaning into Caleb’s hands, accepting his kisses on his knuckles, his cheek, the top of his head, but his pretty eyes are round as saucers and his posture reveals a clear attempt to smother his fight-or-flight instinct. And he never, ever initiates anything of the sort.
Caleb knows how foreign the concept of casual physical contact is to Essek. He knows because he says so in one of their convoluted conversations about personal boundaries.
“You know,” Caleb says as they’re finishing lunch, as casually as he can, “you don’t have to indulge me if you don’t want to.”
When Essek puts down his fork, the gesture is slow and deliberate. “I’m not indulging you,” he says quietly, looking at this plate, getting Caleb’s meaning at once. “And I appreciate your concern. I’m just… unaccustomed.”
He looks up at Caleb then, open and honest, and Caleb is reminded — not that he ever forgets it — that time works differently for him. That if he says he’s going to think about this for a while, his ‘while’ might very well encompass the rest of Caleb’s life. It’s just how it is.
“But I want to get accustomed,” Essek goes on, with an intensity that he doesn’t try to hide. He offers it to him, placing it between them like a gift. “Very much.”
In the silence that follows, Caleb takes in the set of his jaw, the straight line of his shoulders. When he holds his head high like this, Essek’s cheekbones look almost impossibly kissable. “Can I try something?”
Essek’s immediate, easy answer speaks of a trust that, once given, is unlikely to be taken back. “Of course.”
“Wait, I don’t have my components on me.” Caleb feels lilac eyes glued on him as he hurriedly folds his napkin and leaves it on the table.
When he comes back into the room, his padded paws don’t make any noise as he slinks up to Essek and deftly jumps in his lap.
The cat’s mind is simple but sharp. It doesn’t have a broad scope, but what it sees, it sees clearly. The desire to express affection to a beloved creature is easy to pursue and fulfill. The cat is satisfied when he rubs his cheeks on the underside of his beloved’s jaw, marking him with his scent, and he summons a loud rumble from his small, furry body when, after some forgivable tentativeness, careful hands start smoothing his fur.
It becomes a sort of habit. Essek is still second-guessing himself when it comes to touching human Caleb, even though now and then he’s the one to lean against Caleb while they’re sitting side by side, and his eyes are not enormous anymore when Caleb strokes his cheek. But pets and scratches come natural, almost automatic when Caleb turns into a cat. Even the small part of Caleb living in the cat’s consciousness enjoys them. It’s simple. Mindless. Pleasant.
It isn’t premeditated, but it’s also bound to happen. They’re in the Tower one night, on one of the library’s couches, with books, components, and writing supplies scattered around them. Caleb stretches and decides it’s time for a break.
His cat form shouldn’t be as tired as he feels, but evidently some of his exhaustion translates, because he falls asleep to gentle hands petting him.
And he wakes up to his hair being played with.
For a moment he’s not sure where he is or who’s holding him. Wispy tendrils of panic start to encircle him, when he hears Essek’s soft, soothing voice.
“Hello. You’re safe.”
The here and now start to assert themselves again, turning out to be ‘in Essek’s lap’ and ‘more than an hour after casting Polymorph on himself’ respectively. As soon as he realises it, Caleb feels his face flush. He must be crushing Essek, or making him uncomfortable; probably both.
He sits up, but he doesn’t go far, because the hand that isn't in his hair is pressed on his chest.
There’s no real force behind it, no dunamantic effect to keep him in place. It’s just touch.
Except there’s no ‘just touch’ when it’s Essek.
So Caleb stays where he is.
He keeps still as purple fingers leave his chest and reach up to Caleb’s cheek, lilac eyes following them with singular focus. They fly over Caleb’s brow, brushing across his forehead, his cheekbones, tracing the profile of his nose, pads catching on the stubble on his jaw. Caleb has always been half in love with the clockwork precision of Essek’s somatic gestures, and this feels no different than a carefully cast spell.
The moment holds its breath, suspended.
With calculated slowness, but not a mote of hesitation, Essek covers the distance between them. Caleb remembers to close his eyes moments before he feels Essek’s lips on his closed mouth, where they remain as his brain tries to catch up.
It’s a cliché, but Caleb’s stomach swoops. A sudden weightlessness settles in his guts, making him feel pleasantly light-headed.
Then something moves, and Caleb clutches Essek’s arms when he doesn’t feel the couch under him anymore. He pulls back, trying to angle himself so he hits the floor first.
No, they’re not on the couch anymore, but they’re not about to fall unceremoniously on the ground either.
They’re hovering. Books and components float out of the corner of Caleb’s eye, but he doesn’t look away from Essek, who looks utterly absorbed, and a little bit like someone who’s just been hit on the head. Caleb’s heart clenches with affection. It’s a good look on him.
He can’t help it; he leans forward, placing a quick kiss on the corner of Essek’s mouth. Essek doesn’t flinch. Caleb tries, but he can’t stop smiling. “Schatz, would you bring us down?”
Pale eyelashes flutter, and realisation dawns in Essek’s eyes a moment after he looks around, taking in the slightly different angle of the room and the objects floating around them like huge, weird butterflies.
Caleb has seen this man face a literal apocalypse with relative composure, wielding his power with ease and self-confidence, but there’s nothing controlled in the way everything clatters to the ground when he reverses the gravitational field too quickly.
They fall along with everything else, but the couch catches them, a soft, safe landing. Before Essek starts apologising, Caleb touches his lips. He still looks mortified, but he doesn’t flinch this time either.
“You can explain,” Caleb says, “or you can kiss me again.”
Essek’s indecision lasts for less than a second.
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