Becoming a Wild Woman

This post was originally published in Sam Osbiston’s online publication Catching Life back in the Spring of 2017. It’s one I worked hard on and really enjoyed creating! I’m reposting here so that you too can enjoy it (hopefully).


As a young girl, somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7, I made a bold statement.

I remember my two older brothers and I were arguing, and one of them made a comment condescendingly saying,

“When you grow up you’re going to be lazy and no good”.

I remember feeling weighed down by hurt and confusion. I didn’t understand why anyone who was supposed to love me would say such things. It is only as an adult I realize this is what others tend to do to the brave and wild. They go to great lengths to extinguish our fire before our flames can grow so large they get consumed by them.

Shockingly, my mother stuck up for me. In what felt like a rare moment I heard her say to me,

“No you’re not. You’re going to grow up to be a nice, smart young lady.”

At her words, I remember feeling a tightening around my soul. One that I knew wouldn’t do.

Confronting my mother’s statement, my small frame straightened and I announced,

“No I’m not, I’m going to be a wild woman!”

Wild? Did I even know what I was saying? Did I really want to be wild?

At such a young age, did I know that a song played across my spirit; one that would not be quieted by the everyday expectations of life? Did I know in order to feel a part of this world, to find an inner peace and calm, and to make a mark for myself and for all my kindred spirits, I would need to dance in full force to the rhythm of my inner song?

Was I aware of what dancing the dance would mean, and did I realize living a wild life would require me to stand alone in my truth?

In the time before I allowed my heart and soul to be tightly closed by mediocrity’s vice, yes, I think I did want to be wild. In fact, I think it was knowing these things deep inside the core of my being which made my child-self affirm my future so confidently.

Somehow, I still ended up falling into the grasp of the uninspired life. My dreams clouded and eventually merged with those of others. I found myself operating from a restrained, sensible, and disciplined place, one that had been made for me, instead of by me. While living this carefully constructed life, my persona eventually morphed into that image my mother described.

I most certainly did become a “nice, smart young lady”.

The song, however, still played.

It hummed along in the background throughout the empty successes, the ghost failures, and the misguided loves and heartaches. Eventually, I saw I had given up so much of myself to the conventional, I was left feeling void and drained, like a ghost roaming eternity in search of a redemption it would never find.

I needed to find my way back to Wild. I needed to dance.

I don’t think it was one moment or decision that prompted the dilation of my soul. Rather, I think my untamed heart freed itself slowly, jaggedly, and painfully, like ice expanding and breaking apart the rocky enclosure. One painstaking decision after the other led to the undoing of my sensible persona and the uplifting, and releasing, of my natural spirit.

Slowly, the traditions I held onto so loyally and so dearly began to break away. I started to see through them, past the place where their false core resided, through the thin, filmy residue of the intentions that held them together, and into the heart of the lies they were built upon.

I began to confront my own false narratives which held together the fragments of the model citizen I had become. I stood face to face with my demons, and I broke my own heart several times along the way.

With each broken heart I realized how much I had stifled my own free spirit for the acceptance of others. I waded in the pool of the heavy pain and regret of these realizations. I berated myself for not being my true self, and basked in the guilt of wanting to let go of everything I had built to get away from my natural self.

I allowed life to tell me wild was ugly and outcast, but the more I worked to let the thick, sludgy venom of conformity drain from my soul, the more I began to see the pure, inspired beauty of a spirit so naturally expressing itself in the world. I saw a dormant flower of winter bud into a vibrant Spring blossom.

Truth be told, the further I went down the path less travelled, the further those I had relied upon proceeded down the well traversed path. As I stepped further along my road to authenticity, I saw the inauthentic friendships melt away. And, being honest, watching the happiness of the many while walking among the few caused so much doubt within me, the brilliant light center I had begun to operate from flickered and darkness began to move back in.

But, the song played on, and each time it came down to choosing between sitting this one out, or dancing the time away… more and more often I chose to dance. For I believe, in the end, the feeling of living my truth outweighs that of living the false ideal of others. And, in the end, I have fallen madly, passionately, and deeply in love with a life that is lived purely from the heart.

I have fallen for me, one hell of a wild woman.


Finding Yourself is the Ultimate Goal… Isn’t It?

People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates. ~ Thomas Szasz

I’ve been in Warsaw about 2.5 weeks, and during that time I’ve begun noticing the most glorious shift!

The change was subtle at first. It wasn’t really a consistent state of being like I often assume internal shifts will be. It was more a sensation that kept cropping up in the most random and ordinary of moments. Because of this randomness, I couldn’t quite decipher what the cause of the new feeling was.

After observing the ebb and flow of it a few times, I chose to sit with this new feeling for without distraction. It only look a minute or two for the understanding of what it represented to appear.

I saw how I was EXCITED and INSPIRED to simply be MYSELF.

This was the first I had felt this way in a VERY long time. I’d probably not even entertained this notion since I was a young child still lacking the influences of society. It was refreshing and freeing. Moreover, it was empowering and gave me hope.

Let me break down further what it was like to experience this feeling.

Recently my business partner and I started a social media campaign where we were trying to find specific companies we’d like to partner with.Unfortunately, we didn’t get many responses, and this outcome had me both worried and giving zero f*cks all at the same time.

The second point of view was something I had heard about, but didn’t remember ever feeling. So, I decided to examine it further.

When I connected with this ‘zero f*cks given’ side, I saw that not only did I not care what others thought about our campaign and its outcome (which was, my ego kept yelling to me, “playing out in real time for all to see!”), but I also witnessed myself receiving a great deal of fulfillment from posting information that was a direct reflection of our truth and hard work.

Other examples of experiencing the feeling included instances when I found myself walking outside in a foreign city with an air of confidence instead of a blanket of anxiety or visiting museums that maybe weren’t as popular but aligned with my interests or trying new foods based off a non-goal based curiosity.

Each time I took the stance of doing me and not caring what others thought, I felt SO DAMN GOOD!

Warsaw walkway through green park.
Having the confidence to step outside meant a walk through the beautiful park.
Student paintings hung on a fence
It also meant finding some fun art outside a nearby school.
Warsaw bus sign
I had the courage to get out of my comfort zone and navigate the Warsaw bus system. This is one of the signs on the bus.

I tried to attribute this new found self confidence to my friends, their apartment, and my staying in and around their energy. But, my friend, being the great person he is, wasn’t having it. He asserted, “Told ya, you’ve found yourself, this has nothing to do with Jack, us or Warsaw. Honored nevertheless!”

Jack Russell Terrier close up
I was sure Jack had inspired my new found feeling.

Then the thought hit me. Maybe he’s right? Maybe I HAVE, after a year and a half of this winding road, found myself?

These questions then forced me to ask: What the hell IS finding myself, again?

I reminded myself that I already had the answer, that finding yourself is the same as knowing yourself, and that ultimately it’s the process of unearthing what makes up the core of my being, then aligning my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with that core.

The results of this discovery process, no matter what term you use to label it (NOTE: I decided to go with the “finding yourself” terminology today because I wanted to uphold the original quote from my friend AND I wanted to point out that the labels don’t matter. The process is the process.), are an insane amount of joy, positivity, and sense of fulfillment.

fisherman by a pond
I’m sure this fisherman has found himself in this moment, and if not, I enjoyed seeing him.

Finding self is not only about these outcomes, but, as Allison Fallon tells us it also helps decrease depression, anxiety, and codependent tendencies. On top of that, Tanya-Camilleri explains how finding self helps people have more meaningful connections (because we’re connecting to others as ourselves, not as the facades we put on to ensure others like us).

The reality is that these benefits stem from actively doing the work. That work is about honoring and giving voice to the inner ME that I’ve been quieting since childhood. Doing this work means putting myself first, in all situations. It also means losing myself (i.e. dropping my survival facade) to find myself (i.e. letting my inner self shine!).

coffee cup
“Sometimes” I lose myself to find myself with a cup of coffee

It’s also about sitting still long enough to realize that I’m not “screwing it all up” by not being perfect. For example, a few weeks ago I read this inspiring article about a man who became location independent and found his work and life’s passions.

Instead of thinking “Damn. I’m nowhere near where he’s at. I must be a failure.” I thought “oh wow it took him a few years to figure out his travel too, and he had someone with him helping! I can DO THIS!” I gave voice to my inner self who knows I’m on this journey for a reason, and quieted the part of me that aligned with the naysayer forces who tell us going your own way is wrong.

After patiently, and consistently, coming back to these seemingly small practices, I do believe I’ve found myself. At the very least, I’m off to a damn good start.

But, be warned! There are some major drawbacks to this self discovery journey. As I was made privy to these early on in my quest, it’s only right that I share these realities with you. Here goes.

One of the first disadvantages of finding yourself is, well, I’ll just say it; it’s losing others. You’ll start to figure out that the people you have around you are a direct reflection of who you are today and who you’ve been. Some of them may be willing to come down the road of self-growth with you. Many of them will not be.

Sometimes this will mean ending or letting go of relationships and friendships. Other times it means the relationships shift. Whatever happens, to think that you can go through these intense growth moments and have the people around you remain the same is just not realistic. I recognize this is a REALLY hard concept to accept, but I assure you it’s true. The sooner you sit with and accept it, the easier it will be.

Further, because you are doing so much work on yourself and changing in the process, you may find frustration with other people around you (friends or strangers) who simply “don’t get it”. Remember they have chosen to not do the same work for their own reasons, and to expect others to be where you are is also unrealistic. Much patience will be needed in this regard.

Finally, you may also find you become frustrated with or ashamed of yourself for wanting to stray from the pack. I’ve often caught myself thinking: Why can’t I just believe in what they believe in? Why can’t I just be normal? I have to accept this discomfort and learn to love myself through it.

All this to say just because I work on myself I don’t think I’m “better” or “more evolved” than others, nor should I view myself this way. It just makes sense that if I engage in self work I’m going to turn out different. The more I strengthen myself, the less energy I will be putting towards holding up others. That just is.

I have witnessed this dynamic time and again. My dear friend has been working on himself for far longer than I. In fact, his lifelong self-discovery efforts have not only guided, but have inspired me. For years he would say, “Don’t try to be like me, yo. People won’t like you. You’ll see things differently and won’t be able to have conversations like you can now. You’ll be isolated and alone. I don’t recommend this path.”

He told me this out of love. I saw his life and path, and I still see it today. People are intimidated by his self knowledge and belief in himself. They feel attacked by his very plain, matter of fact demeanor, when he means no ill-will towards them. He’s just so certain of himself, while most of us aren’t, that being himself forces others to see how much of an act they are putting on. When people are faced with their own facade (I say this from experience) they can’t accept their own actions, so they take out their self judgement onto him.

By being himself so completely, he’s not bending towards others as we’ve been taught to do. This lack of bending is what others take to mean he isn’t a good, caring person. Fact is, he cares, he just doesn’t show it in the societally defined way anymore. He shows it in his way.

Obviously this isn’t a fun place for him to be. In addition, and this is something I’ve begun noticing for myself as well lately, by him living a life without distractions everything is REAL. He can’t NOT see the reality of how a situation is playing out. Others think he is being all-knowing, but in reality he can’t turn the reality off! He’s often saying “I wish I could go back into the matrix and be ignorant of it all. I long for that bliss.”

In short, the consequences of deep self work are just as real as the benefits.

Now you may be wondering: Why would I want to do this work if it means setting me apart from others in my life?

Frankly, you may not want to… and that is OK! All of this is 100% your choice. My friend told me time and again not to follow his lead, but I didn’t feel I could turn the tide and stop! I needed to find myself.

I needed to do this because of how genuine, aligned, and purposeful it makes me feel. I feel sheer bliss in knowing and living my truth. I know that by doing this I can be a better help to those around me and contribute more to the world. Plus, having less people in my life doesn’t mean I end up alone, it just means I have fewer distractions. Those people who align with who I am are still around, and our relationships are stronger than ever (despite sometimes very necessary hard conversations).

Thus, I’ve made my decision to go ahead with working on myself and living my truth. But, again, that’s my decision. You need to ask yourself if the results are worth it to you (a question of self discovery in and of itself, btw). If they aren’t and you don’t opt out of the work, that’s a perfectly acceptable and applaudable answer.

But, if you find they are, gather up your courage and join me on this lonely, but loving path.

I guarantee you it’s the most insightful and fulfilling journey you’ll ever take.


Rediscovering Wonder

It is no coincidence my wanting to write about the last of Tolkien’s 6 Keys of Happiness (as defined in this text) today. Yesterday I spent the day mentally, and materially, preparing for yet another upcoming transition. This time I cleaned out the several bags I’ve been storing in my car all these months in preparation for Phase 2 of The Lis Experiment.

It was a big day.

It made all the other days I wanted to write to you about feel small, actually,

It was a day that made my return to the Pacific Northwest earlier this March seem almost insignificant. The strong emotions from that day, and the days which have followed, were so easy for me to access before yesterday’s car clearing.

I will try to bring them back as I type to you now.

The day I returned to Oregon, I drove from Oakland to Klamath Falls. It just so happens that earlier this Summer, on the road trip from White Salmon to Los Angeles, I stayed in Klamath Falls. I checked into the same motel, and settled in for a cozy night.

The next day was my birthday, and I awoke to snow and cold, but I also awoke to the comforts of being back in a quaint place.

Snowy sidewalk
Snowy sidewalk in Klamath Falls.
Street buildings
A few of the buildings along the main street in Klamath Falls.

That morning I walked the familiar street to a coffee shop about a block away. I ordered a delicious coffee and breakfast, and when I was told the total was $4.50, I almost sobbed with joy! A cup of organic, fairtrade, freshly roasted coffee plus a huge bowl of healthy, breakfast goodness for under $5? It’s been too long PNW… too long.

Coffee shop
Gathering Grounds Cafe & Roastery
Bowl of oatmeal and a newspaper.
My delicious breakfast and the local news.

After breakfast I walked back to the motel, and as I walked, I soaked up the beauty surrounding this small town; a place most people I know back East have never heard of. I also soaked up the idea that a small town could eat well and provide quality coffee for a fair price… just sayin.

My pleasant return to the Pacific Northwest was magnified by my coming to Bend. Upon my arrival the homeowners offered to take me out to dinner for my birthday! I also ran an errand to the local Chase Bank where the business banker was genuinely kind to me (not the case in bigger cities, at least for me). Best of all I got to meet Lily who would be my roommate for the next few weeks, and she was super nice too!

Border collie on a couch.
Meet Lily!

The awesomeness and kindness I felt then was just day 1. The days which have followed have pulled me even further back into the comfort of a PNW life. There is beauty everywhere I go.

Paddle boarder on river.
A paddle boarder traverses the Deschutes.

There are funky buildings which remind me of my small town roots:

Teal barn
One of the buildings which reminded me of home.

There is art everywhere:

mural
A Bend mural.

Bend is a small, but an incredibly walkable city. (despite the off-season snow you see in the pictures!) I’ve walked to lectures at the library and meditations at a local environmental center. I’ve strolled to dinner with friends downtown, and walked my way to happy hour at the coffee shop.

Signpost
One of the many signs for walkers.

There is also an entire project here in Bend aimed at bringing more kindness and joy into the lives of its citizens:

Bend Joy sign.
One of the many signs around Bend which promotes the Bend JOY Project.

All of these happenings were overshadowed, however, by my cleaning out process. As I write this now, I can see part of that cleaning out feels like I’m leaving the PNW, a place where I’m completely safe and secure and happy, for good.

Part of getting rid of the last of my material things also feels like I’m being ungrateful for the life I’ve built over the past 20 of my years. It feels like I’m saying “Meh… nevermind”, to who I’ve been.

I’ll be honest, I’m tearing up as I connect with these realizations now.

Not only does it feel like throwing a life away, but it’s also the not knowing what life you’re going to get in return. I’m scared, excited, heart-broken, and yet… I’m free.

Somehow, this all comes back to Rediscovering Wonder. In fact, I believe going through this process of clearing and cleaning one’s life, but also noticing the differences in that life along the way, is what the authors, and Tolkien himself, mean by the term. I also believe its a key part of the path to happiness.

The authors point out that “one of the happiest characters in The Lord of the Rings is undoubtedly Tom Bombadil”. His happiness, they claim, is due to his “renouncing all control” and his “taking delight in things for himself”.

They point out how Tolkien’s elves are creatures who never tire from the pleasure they derive from the simplest of things: “poetry, songs, gazing at the stars and sunlit forests”.

They also describe a sort of sensory awakening Frodo (and others) has along his journey. In one such example he touches a tree’s bark, and for the first time really feels what it is, a living being. From this he feels a deep sense of wonder and delight.

The authors then tell us that Tolkien defined this “regaining of vision through the clearing of the soul”, Recovery. They describe this process as “regaining a ‘clear view’, cleaning our windows so to speak”. They explain that it is this process which allows us to Rediscover Wonder in the simplest aspects of life, and of course by rediscovering this wonder, and connecting to ourselves and the world around us, we find happiness.

I can see clearly (pun kinda intended) now that this Rediscovering Wonder process is the one I’m on. I see clearing out physical, mental, and emotional energy is necessary to view and cherish the beauty of a small town or a side road or a person who just wants to take you out to dinner to celebrate you. I see how much these moments fill my cup instead of drain it.

I also see how no part of the process is more important than the other. The process IS the journey IS the destination. The world, and we as creatures in it, is constantly changing, but if we can see wonder in the simple things, we can bring happiness and fulfillment to any life experience.

Lastly, I see that we Rediscover this Wonder, not only by clearing the windows, but also by looking through them intently and seeing with a true eye what we’ve cultivated.

Finally I see that having the courage to clear all that we’ve cultivated away and starting from scratch again and again is one big step necessary to the whole damn process.

So… I’m not ungrateful, I’m courageous!

Yeah… I’ll just keep telling myself that.


Cherish and Create Beauty

I’m sure there are a number of you out there who have been waiting patiently for the next installment of The Six Keys of Happiness as defined by Tolkien and as discussed in the text The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy.

Wait no more, dear reader! Today we’re talking about key #5: Cherish and Create Beauty.

When I sat down to write this post my mind was focused on cherishing beauty. I thought about sharing more regarding all the beauty I’ve seen while on the road, and about how cherishing those moments of beauty has greatly contributed to my happiness.

Trees along a paved walk way.
Beautiful Oakland trails.

Of course this sentiment is true, but as I re-read this section of the aforementioned book, I realized something I haven’t internalized.

That being how the happiest characters in The Lord of the Rings stories are also the most creative. They aren’t just beautiful to look at, they also contribute to the world’s beauty. I stopped at this realization, and took it in. Could the following equation be true?

Being creative = increased happiness

I should note here I’m of the school of thought that all of us are creative. I wasn’t always an attendee of this school. I actually didn’t realize HOW creative I was until I started this phase of my journey. Further, I have to admit that it’s true; my increased awareness and practice of creating has a direct correlation to an increase in my overall happiness.

I should also note that I don’t believe I’m creative in the societal sense of the word. I don’t paint, sculpt, or draw. I take pictures, but I wouldn’t call myself a photographer. I even joke how I don’t use colors in my consulting practice outputs.

But, I am pretty damn creative.

I’m creative in the way I use words (NOTE: Creative doesn’t necessarily mean skilled, haha.) I’m creative in how I put together my living situations. I create new ways to make the pets I sit more comfortable with me. I also create new friendships wherever I go.

Creating beauty isn’t always visual. You may create and share a beautiful feeling or idea. You may work in an ugly place, but your encouraging words at work may create a beautiful moment between you and a co-worker. Creating beauty is something we can ALL do. It’s something we should all do.

Why? Because in these moments of creating we become so absorbed and present that all of our suffering falls away. It is in these moments of unselfconscious absorption we find ourselves the most happy!

So take a moment today to think about the beauty you create in this world. I’m serious. You only need 5 minutes or less. Then, go forth and make more beauty. I bet you’ll be happier for it.

I know I am!


Cultivate Good Character

During my recent stay in Charlotte, I had the treat of watching the Lord of the Rings movies with two newbies to the series. For any LOTR fan, this is quite the delight! Answering questions, waiting for reactions, noticing things you didn’t the first 20 times you watched… it’s a time that can’t be beat. You can also bet I was WAY more excited by this than they were… what can I say, the story never gets old!

It is this, Tolkien’s masterpiece, which inspires post number 4! Well, actually it inspired The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy, and it is this latter text which bolsters our discussion on the Six Keys of Happiness as defined by Tolkien.

What is key to happiness number 4? Cultivate Good Character

The authors explain how this aspect is pretty much cut and dry for Tolkien. In LOTR, morally good characters meet with good ends and morally bad characters do not. There is only a very slight deviation from this in his books, but for the most part it’s a solid bet that if you are good in Tolkien’s middle earth, life will work out for you, and if not… sorry. Thus, it is clear that being a good person is something Tolkien thinks everyone should aim for.

I can’t deny that cultivating my own good character has been something of a focus for me along this path. As I reflect on when and why this started, I’m left blank. Was I always this way? I think not. Sure I have always been an OK person, but as of late I’ve found myself focused much more on putting energy out into the world that I would want to receive back. Further, I don’t want to receive bad, angry, resentful vibes, so I work not to give them out.

In addition, good character to me is about, as the Buddhists would say, cultivating Right Action, Right Speech, Right View, and the like. Meaning, I work to only take actions which I think are good for all involved. I try to keep my word when I say I’m going to do something. When I speak I try not to say bad things about others. I even look to see the whole picture in a situation and not blindly accuse.

Of course, I’m not always successful at these tasks. In fact I’m maybe successful half the time if I’m lucky. But, I do think the practice here is as important as the result. After-all, the key is to Cultivate Good Character, NOT Somehow Have Good Character Without Having Worked On It.

In this way, I plan on going about my journey towards a happy Hobbit style life. Doing so thus far has led to great conversations, increased knowledge, comfortable stays, and fun times.

In the end, what else is there, really?


Get Personal

In this my third post on Tolkien’s Keys to Happiness as discussed in the text The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy, I’d like to take a few moments to add some commentary to the author’s third key to happiness:

Get Personal

Throughout the chapter, the author continuously refers back to the hobbits as exemplars for living this happy life. He starts section number 3 with

“Hobbits are a clannish and highly sociable people.”

He then goes on to further describe the extents of their loyalty to and interactions between friends. He points out how deeply friendship is valued in the hobbit community, how this contributes to their happy go lucky hobbit life, then compares Tolkien’s description of these values to those of real life philosophers. He states,

“The importance of belonging to other people–of forming close, supportive attachments–is something many philosophers have noted as well.“

Friendship is important, we all know this. Further, many of us define our quality of life based off the friendships we have. Being on the road has been a journey not just through time and space, but through reflections on my own relationships.

I have had countless friends, both old and new, extend their encouragement and support. Several have reached out to schedule regular catch up chats with me, and many continuously reach out via email or even, *gasp*, real mail to stay in touch.

I’m lucky.

I’ve also met many wonderful people on the road. I was saying just the other day that I’ve yet to meet someone who has been genuinely unkind to me. Kinda crazy given how the world is portrayed to us nowadays, but I assure you it’s true.

Getting personal to me means exploring and deepening both types of interactions; friend and stranger. I’ve allowed myself to do so by being more vulnerable, open, and honest with both sets of individuals. In return I have not only gained new knowledge and perspectives, but have also increased my ability to get to know myself.

As this process unfolds, I find I have more confidence and increased feelings of self worth. I’m also able to extend more love and compassion to both myself and others.

I believe all of these characteristics are what contribute to happier and more fulfilling moments. And, as we all know, more happy and fulfilling moments make for a more happy and fulfilling life.

Score another for Tolkien and his happy hobbits!


Making Light of My Troubles

In this second post further exploring “Tolkien’s Six Keys to Happiness” (as defined in the book The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy), we look toward Making Light of Our Troubles.

In the book, the authors tell us that the exemplars Tolkien uses to demonstrate this component are, once again, the Hobbits of Middle Earth. It is said these characters’ abilities to both “remain cheerful and unbowed in the face of hardship and suffering” and “find hope and beauty in even the most dire of circumstances” [1], is what Making Light of One’s Troubles is about.

When I read this, I reflect on my own journey. I am definitely much more light-hearted about any troubles I’m faced with nowadays. But, as I think more about these troubles I’m stuck. Although I’m increasingly light-hearted, I also recognize the insignificance of the troubles I’m faced with. Allow me to explain.

One recent example of making light of my troubles is when a project got canceled 3 months ahead of schedule thereby causing me to lose three months of planned income. Instead of diving into the depths of the “how am I going to make money” despair, I saw the comedy in the firing. This opened me up to seeing an opportunity for much needed rest and rejuvenation. This rest and rejuvenation opened me up to understanding how toxic the project was in the first place, and reminded me I need to be more careful about the work I choose. You see, remaining cheerful and unbowed certainly helped me through this one.

Another example involves me seeing the beauty and maintaining hope in some whacky circumstances. Here let me share that beauty with you:

desert landscape
A Joshua Tree Desert View
desert landscape.
Another shot of the Joshua Tree Desert

Despite the fear I had while driving alone through the “High Wind Speed” areas and roads of sand that is Joshua Tree, (NOTE: I likened these road conditions to those of snow covered roads… just without the slipping. Another example of making light of my troubles? hmmmm.) I remained upbeat, humble, and grateful for the opportunity to meet up with friends in such an amazing place. This allowed me to be incredibly present with the people surrounding me when I arrived, instead of stressed from the drive.

These are seemingly all good points. However, the trouble for me is the unimportance of my examples. They are so small and so very inconsequential. Yes, of course they are important to me, but as I write them all I can see is how limited my thinking is; how self-centered and selfish. I feel guilty for celebrating such small, self serving accomplishments as examples of keys to one’s happiness.

I feel ridiculous, actually.

As I sat down to write these thoughts, I questioned whether I should share them. I thought of the judgement I had for myself and how I perceived others would judge me. That judgement sounded something like:

Really, Lis? You’re ‘making light of your troubles’ story involves finding enough “courage” to drive over sand in the desert? That’s not exactly life changing. Further, if it is, what kind of small life are you leading? Certainly not one I want to continue reading about!

I then asked myself what a Hobbit would do. (NOTE: I’m SURE this sentence redeems me. How could it not?) They’d make light of this trouble, of course! They’d write the post, chuckle at the stories, and let go the guilt their ego bestowed on them. They then would practice this act as bigger troubles and circumstances entered their life. In fact, they’d practice this cycle of looking their troubles in the eye, laughing at them, then letting them go so much that soon the idea of taking life or its troubles seriously at all would scarce cross their mind.

Reflecting on it now, I see this as the point Tolkien was trying to make. In the end, no matter what your troubles look like, you look them back in the eye and laugh. And, when you do, that’s when you free yourself from their phantom embrace.

It’s only when we do this that we’re free from the anxieties and what ifs that hold us in place. Sure, most of the times we glimpse this freedom only in the short burst of a moment, but oh how sweet and happy, that moment is.


1. Bassham, Gregory and Bronson, Eric. The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy. Open Court, 2003. Print.


Delighting in the Simple Things

Not to long ago I shared some reflections I had been having (and continue to have) in regards to what it is I’m actually doing on my current journey. It should come as no surprise that my realizations and musings related back to a book devoted to The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy. I’m a devotee, what can I say?

In the previous post, I briefly touched on “Tolkien’s Six Keys to Happiness” and I thought it would be fun to dive into each one a bit further and describe how I’m seeing (or not seeing) each play out along the path I currently walk/drive. Since this is my first piece in this series, I’ll start with numero uno:

Delight in the Simple Things

I don’t think the concept itself needs much explanation. For you LOTR fans out there, the way the authors of the aforementioned book tell it is Tolkien exemplifies both Hobbits and Elves (who are very different, but also very content beings) as happy creatures. He lends this as such due to the fact that both live uncomplicated lives close to nature, and thereby to each other, and both, in their own way, delight in life’s simplicities.

I do believe doing these things has been a major part of my journey thus far, and has also contributed to my increased feelings of fulfillment and contentment even after only a few months. In fact, by letting go of more and more stuff which I thought defined me (material goods, career perceptions, characteristics of ambition and power, etc) I find myself not only having more space and time to delight in the simple things, but I also see myself just DOING the delighting without prompt or feeling I need to.

For example, I know I’ve already shared with you pictures of the surrounding area here in Templeton and of the pets I’m lucky enough to be spending September with, but here are some more for good measure:

Vineyard on a hill, cows in the foreground.
I mean… who doesn’t want to look at this sight each day?
Sycamore tree
I think this tree is so interesting looking, I can’t help but stare at it each time we walk by.
Black Tail Deer grazing.
I love when wildlife allows me to watch it just… live.
Terrier on the floor looking up
I could stare at this face for hours!
English Spaniel looking back at me.
Another face I could spend some quality time appreciating.

I share these pictures for more than just good measure actually. These moments I’ve captured here are so incredibly simple. Yet, each fills me with a tremendous amount of gratitude and joy. I could look at them for extended periods of time and not NEED anything else. These simple things bring me delight.

Further, I can tell you this. I missed these moments for years as I instead used all of my brain space to figure out how to be “A Better”.

You know what I’m talking about. Thoughts like, “How will I be a better consultant?”, “I need to be a better friend.”, “I need to be a better woman.”, “How can I be a better adult?”, and on and on were constantly circulating through my brain. I would then determine I needed to actually DO these things and come up with plans and schedules and schemes which would get me to the Better!

Here’s the thing. All of this thinking and doing took a lot of my energy, a lot of my time, and never actually made me feel better. Go figure. Maybe I should have started living like a Hobbit a long time ago.

Now rest assured I still have these thoughts daily. In fact, I’m having them right now as I write to you. I’m telling myself I should be working on figuring out how I’m going to be making money when I start traveling abroad and being a more consistent and professional consultant instead of exploring the ideas I’m sharing with you.

My soul knows better.

Instead of giving into the better, I use the trust in myself and this process we call life to work to accept the thoughts I am having, but also to continue to write and explore what I’m sharing. For each battle my soul wins, I find myself naturally delighting more in the simple things.

I look over at my morning cup of coffee in awe. I look over at this face and want to cry and laugh and just feel:

English Spaniel on twin bed.
My writing companion encourages me.

In these soul first moments I see myself laughing at my anxieties and my human awkwardness. I then look forward to my afternoon entertainment of going outside to see if there is a bird in the bird bath, and if there is, watching it just being a bird.

In short, instead of striving to be something, I can finally revel in being me. And, instead of seeing myself as some separate entity moving about the Earth, I see my communion with the world and lives around me and I appreciate the profound simplicity of this communion. It was there all along, but I blinded myself from it.

Finally, I notice in these few minutes before the Better thoughts start up again that doing this reveling just feels really good. In fact, you’re right, Tolkien, it does make me happy.