Reflections from East to West

I write to you from the other side of my travels back West. I left Charlotte on Saturday (I’m writing to you on the following Tuesday), and am settling back in to a life alone. In reflections on my time in North Carolina, I found much bubbling to the surface.

First, several people were trying hard to get me to stay. It was a humbling experience; their asking this of me. For example, the night before I left we had a holiday party with about 20 of my friend’s friends. In attendance was a second friend of mine from high school (the one whom I spent Thanksgiving with) and her husband. Her husband said to me, “In all seriousness. Should you choose to come back to Charlotte to settle, we’d love to help you. When D came home from dinner with you the other night, she said it was the best she’s felt in long time.”

Wow.

Combine that with other guests asking me when I would return, and I felt more than welcomed. In fact, during that dinner out with D it was the closest to family and home I’d felt in a long while. I hesitated to leave the comfort of these sentiments.

But then the friend I was staying with countered, “She won’t be back. She doesn’t even like Charlotte.” She wasn’t all wrong, but she wasn’t all right either.

As I’ve mentioned time and again, a large part of this journey for me is about connecting with myself, understanding the core of my being, and living my truth. On many levels, the area around Charlotte isn’t a fit. There’s an energy there that just doesn’t connect with me. It’s a beautiful place, but it FEELS like a land inflicted with pain. It feels contracting and stifling to me, and, I recognize this is probably just for me. It doesn’t make the place a bad one, just not for me for the long term.

In contrast, many of the people there were quite wonderful to me. I felt honored to be in their presence, and to be taken into their group of friends. I hope to meet them again one day, and get to continue to swap life stories with them in the hopes of growing even closer.

For now, I take these lessons and reflections with me as I settle into the winter months in the New Mexico mountains. This is where I’ll wrap up 2018, and there seems no better place to turn inward to investigate all that has shifted and happened for me this year.

Let’s see what bubbles up this time, shall we?

What’s in a Moment?

On my last night in Tucson I was lucky enough to have dinner at the house of some new friends. (NOTE: These are also friends of my RVA friends.) My time with them was (too) short, but it was impactful. As we sat outside discussing just about everything, I felt the need to get my anxieties off my chest.

I described to the two of them the doubts I’ve been having. Most specifically, Are the short relationships I’m making while on the road a reflection of me only wanting to have “good” moments as opposed to hard ones with friends? Am I missing out on that other side of the person to person experience? Will I ever be happy somewhere and with someone?

You get the drift.

The one friend stopped me dead in my tracks. She described to me how she had a recent conversation with their daughter, the topic of which touched heavily on my current existential woes. Her response to both her daughter, and now me, was simple. And, as many simple responses are, it was quite profound.

She described a story in which her and a friend were discussing memories and moments in life. They determined that even though they may not remember every story of their life exactly as it happened, the moments still impacted them for the remainder of their days. She encouraged me to consider this simple wisdom for myself:

All we have is a moment. Enjoy it.

Of course I am paraphrasing this friend’s wisdom which I’m sure was much more eloquent and detailed, but this sentiment is what I carried with me. As soon as she said this all the Buddhist lessons I encountered over the years came flooding back. This was the fact I have been overlooking. I felt it stir me.

When I left town the next day, I left knowing I had the support of others to encourage me onward. The road took me into the mountains to the beautiful state of New Mexico. Being from the East Coast I had no idea what to expect from this state, but to say I’m stunned by all it has to offer would be an understatement.

This emotion was underscored by the AirbBnB rental I stayed in on my first night. Unfortunately, I only had one night here, but even that was enough to fill me with comfort and inspiration. And, most importantly, it granted me the best night’s sleep I think I’ve ever had.

I pulled up to the property to find the owner, Beth, working on one of her many art projects. Here, let me share it with you:

artwork
I was mesmerized by this piece.

She welcomed me and stated I would be the first AirBnB guest to walk across this new installation. Woohoo! We began chatting and I found myself quickly recapping my anxieties from the night before. You all know how she responded:

A moment is all we have. Live it up!

I guess that was all the universe had to tell me on the topic, and I figured I may as well start listening.

I started by taking a tour around this beautiful property; my jaw dropping at every turn. This woman had the ability to make anything and everything look beautiful. Her attention to detail was simply amazing, and the feeling her work gave me was greatly needed. Here let me share the pictures already:

Mountain view
A view of the property including the mountains in the distance.
Mountain views
More mountain views.
Tree view
Views of the trees surrounding the property.
horse
There were even horses onsite.
outdoor kitchen and living room
The outdoor kitchen and living space.
Tea set
I loved this tea set.
Metal peacock.
Some art marks the path.
Cabin door
The front door of the cabin.
Desk and chairs
The workspace in the cabin.
Spiral staircase
This is a staircase the owner and an artist friend built. Enchanting!
Front of small building
The front of one of the galleries on site.
Gallery
A gallery interior. Pretty amazing, right?
outdoor living space
The outdoor kitchen and living area at night.

As I sat outside enjoying the cool mountain air, I took in Beth’s life. In this small town of maybe 150 people, tucked away in the Gila National Forest, she had people stopping by to help her with art projects or help her fix something or other pretty much all afternoon. She had galleries onsite with incredible local art which people knew to come see. I noted the dream like quality of my experience there, and also noted how much I loved the quaintness of it all.

I reminded myself there are probably just as many downsides to her life than any other life, but since I’m living moment by moment at this point, I pushed those thoughts aside and simply enjoyed the good vibes.

The next day I woke up refreshed and ready to start a new day. It was the best I’ve ever felt waking up in the morning… I have to be honest. I packed up my gear and got on the road for another 4 hours of driving up to the El Morro area. Along the way, the sentiments of the past few days rang loudly for me, and I finally connected with what my friend was expressing on that Tucson night.

These moments I experienced over the past few days were short indeed. Further, I may never experience the people or places again, but the fabric of them has shifted my perspective. Since perspective is everything, they have shifted my life.

So, what’s in a moment? Seems like everything is, no?

Making Friends with Strangers

I had such a wonderful day this past Sunday, I find myself anxious sitting to write about it. I fear I won’t be able to write a piece which expresses the immense amount of gratitude I feel. I’ll try to explore my reactions and reflections along the way, but to start perhaps I’ll just tell you about the day.

I started it as I do any Sunday, or, rather, any day here in Tucson. I took care of Sunny, did yoga, and had a lovely coffee-filled breakfast. I then left the house and headed towards Old Tucson where I was meeting a friend of a friend who lives here in town. (NOTE: This is a friend of the friends I stayed with while in Richmond, VA this Summer.)

I was excited for the excursion because I knew I’d not only meet someone new, but I’d also get to experience something new; always a win-win for me. While I was driving the 20 minutes west the friend texted saying she was going to be a few minutes late. Instead of arriving at the park early, I decided to pull over at a scenic point to finish my coffee. Here was the scene I got to sip to:

Desert view
What a view.

I got back in the car and drove the rest of the way to Old Tucson. I should tell you, I didn’t research the place at all. Thus, it was quite the surprise to find out most of the western movies my dad spends hours on end watching were filmed at the location! Unfortunately, I’ve had to sit through many of these movies in my day, but fortunately this provided a pretty awesome experience as I walked around the park. Here let me share some of them with you:

Gift shop front.
The Last Outpost gift shop.
Movie camera
One of the cameras set out front.
Old Tucson entrance
The entrance to Old Tucson.
Movie list
Just a small subset of the movies that were filmed at Old Tucson.
Movie set
The sheriff office set.
Movie set
Set for “The Hanging Man” reenactment.
Old west store fronts.
The Barber and Dentist here in “town”.
Old west hotel building
The hotel in Old Tucson
Old west store.
The mercantile store set.
Fake grave marker
These grave markers in the cemetery cracked me up.
Actors on set.
The actors play out the last show of the day.

The friend arrived shortly after I did and brought with her her boyfriend and his sister. The four of us thought we’d only spend a few short hours at the park, but we found we were having such a great time talking, exploring the park, and hearing about the stories filmed there and life in the Wild West in general that we ended up staying until closing!

In talking with my new friends I learned so much about them and their life experiences. I felt my knowledge of the world grow tremendously in only a few hours. Plus, being at the park with them was great!

We saw live reenactments of scenes from films, we road rides, we experienced mines… it was awesome to be around great people again! We also talked about how much we loved the experience of the park. What it came down to was the people who worked there CARED about the park and the patrons. Even though it was an act everyone was putting on, it genuinely felt GOOD to experience it. Yeah, it was a place of commerce, but it didn’t feel overly commercialized. It was an endearing place.

Before we left the park the boyfriend and I were sitting on the bench outside of a gift shop chatting while we waited for the others to purchase their wares. He turned to me and said, “You know, I’m surprised by how great today was. I really enjoyed the time here at the park and meeting and talking with you. I didn’t expect that.”

“I didn’t either, but when good folks get together, good times are bound to happen”, I replied.

We sat in the quiet of the next moment simply appreciating the time the four of us had together that day.

Eventually we four bid adieu and I headed back to the house to take care of Sunny before heading to another event full of people I didn’t know; the Halloween block party thrown by the neighbors next door.

It was another welcoming place where I had the opportunity to talk to so many new people about their lives. One person was the father of the neighbor. I sat and talked with the 86 year old man for quite awhile.

He told me about his life; how he left Mexico in the 60s then came here to make a new life for himself. He worked several jobs before landing one with the state of Arizona where he earned the pension he now lives off of. When I asked him what he did and still does during his 23 years of retirement, he didn’t flinch in sharing with me the simple things in life that make him happy. These included cooking, working around the house, and making crosses for those he loves and for his church. Here is a picture of the ones he made for the homeowner whose house I’m staying in:

Wooden crosses
Crosses made by José.

I walked back home after the event and sat down in silence. I reflected on how strange it was to live out entire relationships with new friends, the beginning and ending, all in one day. I suppose this is life on the road. I WAS still saddened by having to leave the loving energy of the day, but I reminded myself that I’ll be taking the energy with me wherever I go. This continues to help me work through the sadness.

Another thought that helps me is in thinking of all of the strangers I’d miss out on making friends with if I chose to stay in one place. Now THAT’s something to be sad about indeed.

Feels Like Coming Home

I arrived in Tucson last Thursday prepared for another arrival in which I’d share a night with the homeowner. When I drove through the city limits I immediately felt something utterly strange.

I felt comfortable.

It was the first time in my adult life I remember feeling so at ease in my own skin.

When I drove into the neighborhood I saw it was deeply contrasted from the pomp and circumstance of my Orange County, CA arrival. This Tucson hood was a more simple place, and it felt way more welcoming.

mountains against a blue sky.
Mountain views from the neighborhood.

I parked in front of the house and walked up to the door. I was surprised to see a woman of 70+ years opening it. This is the homeowner?, I thought to myself as I calculated the size of the dog, her living alone, and her being on a house sitter website at all. I caught myself going into an act to try to charm her, and I immediately stopped myself.

When I stepped into the kitchen and looked about the modest home, I initially felt disappointment. Shortly thereafter, after dropping the act for a moment, the disappointment started to morph into another sensation I hadn’t felt in my adult life.

I felt at home.

We walked to the backyard of the house, and I noticed a sense of recognition. Tucson reminded me a great deal of San Antonio, and the backyard brought back memories of my time there. I wouldn’t say I necessarily had visual memories flood me, but more I remembered the energy I felt while living in San Antonio. I also saw how very far away from myself I was at that time in my life, and I extended gratitude for the opportunity to find my way back.

Tree
Tree in the backyard.

As I walked with the homeowner about the house I watched her feed the dog, water the plants, and maintain the home, all the while taking my usual mental notes. I also cracked my usual jokes, and once again put on my usual charms; none of which she responded to. Not a single one. Instead she stayed in her own energy and went about her chores, explaining everything to me as she went.

I watched her with her dog. Her energy was completely calm, and the dog incredibly loving and responsive. There were no worries about his behavior or concerns about his habits. Instead it was just two beings who cared for each other living together; a deeply beautiful sight to witness.

Dog on a couch smiling
Sunny welcomes me.
Dog laying on the ground by the door.
Sunny waits at the door.

When we went to the front of her house her neighbor was putting out more Halloween decorations. He greeted me amicably from his yard, then walked over. The three of us chatted for a bit, and the neighbor invited me to the Halloween block party he and his wife throw every year. It was more than a warm welcome. It truly felt like a homecoming event.

There was no grand dinner or cocktail event that night. It was simply me and the homeowner sitting in the living room with her dog talking and watching the news. I asked her about herself; where she was from, where she was going, what she was doing here in Tucson, and I learned so many interesting facts I fear I can’t share them all.

For example, I learned she once taught on a Navajo reservation where she lived for 11 years. I learned she lived in this current house for 36 years (NOTE: my age), and that she used to teach business at the community college nearby. I also learned that this time each year she goes with a surveying team to a state park in the desert where they record Native American petroglyphs for the park record books; something she has been doing since the 70s.

I sat and listened in awe and reverence. For what I saw before me was a self-actualized individual living her best life. Yes, I was in the presence of someone who had architected their best life, and when I realized this, I saw in her a potential future Self.

I immediately realized why the universe had brought me here to Tucson; to take in her energy, her life, her example, and to drop the act. I know I’m meant to keep from my observations what works for me and discard what doesn’t. Her example is the clear next one needed to help me architect my own best life.

I’m grateful.

It’s safe to say her energy has stayed with me over the past week, and I continue to examine all aspects of it.

Despite these profound interactions, I have made some time for adventuring and sightseeing. Not only was I able to find some coffee:

Coffee shop
Coffee!

… BUT the homeowner also left me her membership card to the Sonora Desert Museum! Here are a few shots from my walk around there:

cacti
Cactus love.
cacti and views.
Desert love.
Trees hanging down.
I thought these trees were pretty cool.
lizard
I made a friend at the museum.
desert mountains
A view out yonder.
cacti
These cacti are huge!
Blue Rock
A cool rock I saw while exploring.
Cactus and Desert trails
Views from the Sonora Desert Museum.
Cactus and Desert trails
More views.
Mountains,
The view from a scenic point on my way back from the Museum.
Another shot from the scenic point.

I also made my way down to the famous San Xavier Mission:

Approaching the Mission
Approaching the mission.
San Xavier mission in Tucson.
A closer view of the mission.
Chapel bells
Chapel bells.
Mountains and desert
A view from the mission hills.
Rock with clouds in the background.
A rock against the clouds.
Lion heads at gate.
Lions mark the path.
Quote plaque at mission
Lest we forget… I enjoyed this quote.

So, it hasn’t been all work and no play. Though, one thing is for sure. Whatever it is I’m doing out here on the road is working. How do I know? Well, to feel a comfort within myself that I haven’t felt in over 30 years, that’s something to me.

In fact, that’s what this whole adventure is about.

Who Do I Want to Be?

I arrived here in Yuma, AZ Monday afternoon (I’m writing to you on a Wednesday), and was greeted by a lovely AirBnB experience. Here are some pictures to prove it:

Welcome Lis sign
I felt so welcomed by this sign!
Yuma like a local sign.
Instructions on how to do Yuma like a local.
Bed with pillows
After driving all day I couldn’t wait to get into this cozy looking bed.
Kitchen
Cooking in this kitchen reminded me of my time in NYC.

Let’s just say my choice in driving through the Santa Ana winds (and mountains) to make it here seemed a great one.

When I woke up on Tuesday, I decided to use the mid-morning hours as adventure time. I went to the post office to send a book to a dear friend, then I began driving around Yuma to see some of the historic sites. I was followed by the most uneasy energy I’ve felt on any trip thus far. (Except maybe when Cris and I stayed at a Hotel 6 in East Philadelphia on the East Coast Road Trip, but at least then I wasn’t alone.)

Little felt safe. I should say, little felt safe outdoors. When I interacted with people like the woman at the Post Office or the man at the coffee shop or my AirBnB hosts, they were all quite lovely. However, when I stopped at the city park or went downtown I felt nothing short of uneasy. Actually I was really scared.

I grappled with this fear. I shared it with others, and I also sat with it on my own. I questioned what is was I was actually scared of. Afterall, it’s not like these scenes are particularly scary:

Bridge and Mountains
I tried to grab a picture of the mountain views.
Church top and rock
A picture of the top of the Mission from Gateway Park.
Lutes Casino front.
Ok… this may look sketchy but it was in the cute old part of town.

It’s also not like I was in any real danger at any point. But yet, the fear remained.

As I worked through it, I began to see how its roots tangled themselves around my courage. I saw this, and realized how tired I am of being the scared person. If I wanted to become who I want to be, I needed to break said roots and allow my courage to take over.

So I took action. I took a walk around the neighborhood and noticed the cute houses, the school children playing soccer, and the man mowing a lawn nodding and smiling. My courage was growing, and it was encouraged on by this quote sent be a friend later in the evening:

As you think about your own path to daring leadership, remember Joseph Campbell’s wisdom: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself, for the people you’re meant to serve and support, and for your culture. Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and being afraid. At the exact same time. — Brené Brown, Dare to Lead.

Needless to say I slept quite soundly after sitting with these words.

When I woke up today, I decided on an afternoon hike a few miles outside of the town. I was set on having some time alone in nature to “sort it all out”. But, once again, I was denying entering the cave. Sure enough, when I got out to the trail, the road to the trailhead was closed. Further, my attempts to find another trail were also thwarted. I saw the sign. I needed to face my fears.

I came back to the town and decided to replay yesterday’s adventures, all the while facing down my fears and breaking apart their roots. It was an insanely healthy and progressive practice which led me to have a renewed view of my experience here. I saw myself becoming who I want to be.

Then I got the text.

One of my house sitting clients was inviting me back for a gig in the Spring. At first I thought, why not take it? I have nothing else planned?, but then something stopped me. I reached out to a friend who responded that they couldn’t make the decision for me, but if it was them, they’d make the decision based on “why they were on the journey to begin with”. Meaning, they’d decide not based off convenience, but off of who they wanted to be.

The words struck me with an unwavering truth. I’d have to turn down the gig and turn towards the unknown. If I didn’t, I’d be “delaying the risk I needed to take to become the person I want to be”, and keeping it real, I’m so of over doing that.

Leaving California

I awoke this morning (I’m writing to you on a Sunday) around 2 am… terrified. The fear gripping me was so intense it forced me out of bed to check on the cat. Finding her well I returned to bed, but sleep did not find me for several hours more. Instead my heart beat at an accelerated pace while my thoughts churned.

I saw this familiar reaction for what it was; the fear that comes from embarking on an unknown quest. I’d be leaving California on Monday after spending the first few months of my solo wandering here, and I was scared about both what was to come and what I’d be leaving behind.

For example, I’d be leaving behind scenes like these:

Purple sky at sunset.
Another beautiful Rancho sunset.
Sunset
Ok… one more
Aliso Beach
Aliso Beach
Ocean waves.
Kinda felt like I was back on Maui with these waves.

Of course I’ll find beautiful scenes wherever I go (NOTE: I’m convinced we can find beauty in pretty much every place), so I knew my fear was more that just leaving California’s beauty. I also knew I’d take whatever lessons with me that I was meant to, so my fear seemed more than that. Yes, I was still grasping and trying to hold tight to my life here.

Why?

Because I was starting to get comfortable.

Actually, I’m noticing this trend now. Whenever I’m settled into an experience, be it a house, a city, or some other space, my psyche pushes me to move on to the next. Perhaps this is due to the pace I’ve set for my self discovery, but I have to ask myself: “Why did I set this pace to begin with?”

Until I figure this out I’ll continue exploring both my external and internal worlds in anticipation of the joy the resulting discoveries bring.

Hmmmm. I think that last question has been answered, hasn’t it?

Balancing Leading and Being Led

I awoke from the dream with a start.

I knew I had to act, but I also knew too much action, or the wrong action, would only perpetuate the problem. I considered this conundrum as I got out of bed and took care of the pets. When I was done I settled in for my yoga practice; for a venture inwards.

As I flowed, I reflected on what might be the cause of my internal discomfort. I recalled the new mantra I developed while here in Templeton; Be Led. I put this mantra to use because over the past weeks I witnessed the more I tried to push anything forward, the less the result of the pushing fulfilled me. If I instead let go and allowed the universe to take over, I usually found a better result.

For example, when walking the dogs I could try to get them to go the way I wanted, or I could follow their nudges. Following those nudges usually amounted to moments like these:

Sun rising over the hills.
Another beautiful sunrise.
Rose
I stopped to smell the rose.
Close up of a dog's face.
Buddy requests a break.

But, it didn’t always amount to these types of moments. In fact, I believe the discomfort that led to the dream was the result of going too far in this “Be Led” direction. I need to lead at times as well. At the very least, I need to take action. Which brings me back to the morning in question.

As I continued my practice, I softened and admitted this “going too far in the ‘be led’ direction” was the message the dream was sending me. Well, the dream and a few other resources. The universe, or your subconscious, doesn’t just deliver a message to you once, after-all. It will deliver it gently at first. Then, the message will get louder and louder until you finally listen.

The message I was ignoring was one of getting out of my comfort zone. Now, I realize this may sound crazy coming from someone who is on the journey I am, but I assure you, I’ve made myself far too comfortable here. I don’t leave the house. I don’t explore the area. I just haven’t ventured out all that much.

At first I told myself this was because of all the traveling I did in recent months; which was in part true. But, there is a bigger reason. I’m scared of what I might find beyond myself.

The message started as a whisper in the back of my mind. Then my friend emailed a group of us asking about manifesting a state of flow. Next, I read this line from the book my friend loaned me.

“Risk taking is one key way to access this flow state…”

This was followed by an episode of the Codependency No More Podcast telling listeners to take more risks in order to build up self confidence and worth. In the same episode, the guest encouraged listeners to curate skills to access and listen to their subconscious. One way he suggested to do this was to keep a dream journal, as often times our subconscious speaks to us in our dreams.

THEN came the dream.


I was playing with the dogs in the Templeton house when the doorbell rang. I answered it and there stood a man surrounded by many dogs. The two dogs I was sitting ran out to greet the others and I began my usual schtick of “they are friendly enough, though the little guy is anti-social.” The entire time the man, who looked mesoamerican in decent (or so I thought in the dream), stared me in the eye without blinking. He spoke. “There are 3 things causing you to withdraw.”

“What?” I replied. Though I knew what he meant.

He repeated himself while continuing his stare. I knew the 3 things he referred to were the pets I was watching. They were my recent excuse for staying in my comfort zone. Acknowledging and accepting the thought, I looked the man back in the eye and communicated the following through thought, “I see. You’re an angel. Thank you for coming to me.”

He smiled, and I awoke.


It took me a few hours to fully accept that I’ve been holding back, but once I did, ideas for how to spend my Saturday arose. I got into a flow of balancing leading with being led.

I landed on visiting the small beach town of Cambria. It’s been drawing me in since the West Coast Road Trip days, so I decided to give it a whirl. I was happy I did!

First, I took a walk by the ocean:

Moonstone Beach
These driftwood tent structures were all over the beach. Any ideas what they are?
plant
Plants at the Beach
Bench and trees
A bench through the trees.
Ocean and rocks.
The waves come crashing in. The coast reminded me of Ireland or Scotland.
Ocean
More ocean views.
Thistles
Seeing these thistles really made me think of Scotland.
Ocean and rocks
I couldn’t get enough!
Gradient on a rock.
How cool is this rock?
Lis by the ocean
I realized I never take pictures of myself… so here one is!

Walking for only a few minutes cleared my head, heart, and body. I felt completely new! Next, I decided to head to town to grab coffee and to pick up a few things for dinner.

Cambria Coffee
The coffee and muffin were awesome!
Town
I loved the pines and hills so close to the ocean.
Houses in the hills
More houses in the hills.
Quote
Loved this quote!
Fairy garden sign.
Who stumbles on a fairy garden? I do!
Signs in the garden
I love these signs.
village
A fairy garden village? I’m all in!
Unicorn statue
A fairy garden would not be complete without a unicorn.
Fairy statue
One of the fairies :-).
Lis in the garden
Me in the surprise Fairy Garden.

When I got back to the house, I was SO happy I had taken this small, yet big, step forward.

backyard with a buddha.
My view as I reflected on the day.

Ever since, my brain has been going a mile a minute with new ideas and insights. Plus, my soul feels one size larger.

Thank you, Subconscious Self! See? Further proof we already know the answers to our troubles could not be more apparent. We ARE being led by ourselves. We simply need to lead the charge inward to surface said answers, then accept them.

On a Walk By the Ocean

Last Friday I was light on work and had loads of free time. Being that I was in Seaside, CA, I thought it only fitting to take a walk by the water. I opened my hiking app and saw there was a nice trail that went along the sea, so I hopped in my car and headed over to the lovely town of Pacific Grove to check it out.

In truth, I had gone to Pacific Grove the day before to check out some book stores and grab a coffee. I thought it was a cute town and was excited to head that way once again. Here, let me share some pictures of the town with you:

Street with bay in background.
A view down one of the streets towards the Bay.
Station front.
Not the Grand Central Station I was used to walking by, but Grand Central Station nonetheless.
Center sign.
The center attached to one of the bookstores I visited.
coffee sign
Loved this sign!

When I arrived in the recreation area’s parking lot, I reflected on how unplanned much of my days are in comparison to just a few months ago. I didn’t research the walk or where to park or how to get there. I simply trusted and let Google lead the way.

The sights I were greeted with did not disappoint, and they only got better as I walked the 4 mile loop. Here I’ll share those with you as well:

Monterey Bay
The view from Lover’s Point, the start of the walk
ocean and sand
Where the ocean meets the land.
Rocks along the water
Rocks along the water’s edge.
seals in the water
Seals rest while looking at the water.
Steps down to the ocean
Steps down to the ocean.
Some plants growing along the rocks
Some plants growing along the rocks.
Ocean and rock
More ocean views
waves against rocks
Check out the waves against the rocks!
golf course
A golf course by the ocean.
Driving range sign.
I couldn’t resist this picture.

As part of my reading I have been enjoying the book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, and in doing so have been reintroduced to the concepts of self-kindness and mindfulness. I took these with me as I walked.

I saw myself getting agitated with myself for being “bored” with the beauty around me and for wanting to turn around. I saw myself also getting agitated with my chattering mind. When I noticed these agitated states, I simply observed them. I then extended compassion and kindness to myself while I pushed forward on the walk. I saw the walk not as simply a walk, but instead as a chance for me to practice and to live more fully.

Of course my efforts were rewarded, but those rewards weren’t externalized into some grand event. They were simply there with me as I walked if and when I chose to see them:

deer grazing
A friend along my route.

I also took with me thoughts about a time of transition my friend is going through. She’s struggling a bit with the emotions and thoughts which are arising (as we all do), and as I looked down at the water I saw the transition point of where the ocean met the sand and I thought of her. (NOTE: Being a huge Counting Crows fan I was also struck with the lyrics “She walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land just like she’s walking on a wire in the circus.”)

I continued to carry these thoughts with me along my walk, and as I was nearing the end the voices in my head kept yelling at me to sit down on a bench, look at the water, and write. I (finally) listened to them, and this is what came out the other end of my pen:

I looked at the water. Specifically the point where the waves crossed the sand + rock. I thought how all these transition points are jagged, complex, confused. I thought about the rock standing strong as the water hits, and how it eventually gets weathered down. I thought of the sand which the water caresses then carries out to sea to parts unknown. I thought of the adventures that sand would have if it chose to go along with the sea. I thought of the water constantly crashing, pushing + retreating to regain strength for another crash. I wondered if during a transition of life if it’s up to us which of the 3 we choose to be.

Now I see we are all 3 at once.

These words on page I was allowed to walk in peace once again.

Lightening the Load

I write to you from the appropriately named town of Seaside, CA.

A shot of the bay from a distance
Check out Monterey Bay in the distance.

I arrived here yesterday for a house sit. I was here a day early to meet the homeowner and get introduced to her cat and her house. It was another arrival filled with joy and comfort. I was welcomed into a lovely home by both the owner and her pet. I felt a deep sense of belonging and, along with it, a deep sense of gratitude.

I also arrived with a ton of work. In fact, no more than 30 minutes after our introductions, the homeowner and I parted ways so that we could get back to our respective workdays. I set about preparing for several months of upcoming research related to a project that has been more than challenging. Along with its challenges, it also has been taking up the majority of my waking hours. To drive this point home, the night before my arrival I could hardly sleep thinking about how I would balance the project with the travel. Turns out, I won’t have to.

As I lamented to the universe my inability to get out and explore due to the commitment I made to the project, I also decided to give up trying to control the next few months of my time. It simply seemed out of my hands, so why worry about it right? With this thought I finally fell asleep and awoke to the day and arrival I described above.

Here’s the crazy part. I arrived at the house yesterday around 10:45am. Around 2:45pm I got the text. “Project cancelled. Cease all work immediately. Your Statement of Work will be honored”.

Hallelujah!

It was clear to me that I had broken a worry cycle by giving up the false control I thought I had. In return I cleared my path for a few weeks and can return to a normal-ish life. Yes, no project = less money, but no rent = less need for money. See the magic?

When I woke up today I could feel the anxiety draining from me. I had nowhere to be. No one to meet with.

I could breathe again.

I noticed myself trying to fill up my time throughout the day, and was diligent about not giving in to this anxiety. Afternoon came, and I had zero “things to do” so I decided to take a walk to the local coffee roasters. Along the way, I was able to see that Seaside is quite a cute town. There are flowers everywhere! Plus, Monterey Bay beams in the background. Here allow me to share some more of today’s sights with you.

Flowers
Flowers everywhere!
The front of Acme Coffee Roasters
Acme Coffee Roasters
Plants in the backyard
A view from the backyard.
backyard
Backyard sitting in Seaside.

So, for the foreseeable future, I look forward to more days of exploring, wandering, and wondering…. or maybe even more time to write. Who knows?!

Whatever I decide to do, I recognize now I’m being helped and guided along this path (as I think we all are). I also see that when I keep my load really heavy, I become too weighed down to see and trust in this fact. Knowing this now, I have to tell you, I’m oh so grateful the load has lessened.

A Slow Day in Bakersfield

I arrived in Bakersfield, CA last night after a 4 hour drive up from Orange County, CA. The drive was supposed to be about 2.5 hours, but Los Angeles traffic is real. There’s no doubt about that!

I didn’t know what to expect from Bakersfield, really. Not only have I never been here, but I’ve never even really heard about it. I did get some not so great reactions this week as I was telling people I was stopping here for a few days, and it’s safe to say those reactions were confirmed when I entered town. The area, though it contains some cute homes and some pretty scenery, is pretty depressed. I’ll admit I didn’t feel all that safe when I arrived. Though I told myself to keep an open mind because 4 hours in a car will strain anyone’s judgement.

I got to the AirBnB I rented (One that I HIGHLY recommend if you’re ever in town. The space is quiet, clean, and relaxing. The homeowners are lovely to boot!), and was pretty frazzled from the drive. I did muster up the energy to head to the grocery store to get some food and wine, and it was on this trip where my suspicions of Bakersfield were confirmed.

When I woke up this morning I decided I would not make any sort of schedule for the day. I was tired of living by a schedule. I did some yoga, then got myself cleaned up and dressed. I then decided I would take some of the things I had set aside to donate to a local donation center. I got in the car and drove towards the donation center noticing the town along the way. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s a bad place, just very different from Orange County.

I arrived at the donation center and a local woman greeted me as I got my bags out of the car. “Excuse me, miss” she said to me. “Can you help a girl out? Do you have shoes in those bags?” I felt myself cringe, saw myself going to ignore or deny her, then caught myself and said, “I’m sorry, but no. I do have clothes though. Do you need some of those?” I handed my bags over to the woman than said something I rarely say to her, “Bless you”. “God bless you too, miss.” Despite my atheist ways, the exchange warmed my heart.

Back in the car, I made my way over to a local coffee roaster I was excited to try. Blue Oak Coffee did NOT disappoint (I did note how the name was the same name of the cafe I worked at in college. Coincidence?). Quite the opposite, actually.

sign in blue oak coffee roasters
One of the signs inside Blue Oak Coffee Roasters

When I walked in the owner and another shop worker greeted me kindly. When I asked what they had brewed I was offered tastes of several in-house roasted coffees. I settled on one of them (they were all awesome), then also ordered what sounded like an amazing Chilaquiles breakfast plate. The women confirmed that their town was a bit rough, but I also noted how both seemed content living here.

As my breakfast was being made, the three of us talked further. I told them of my journey and they told me about opening the cafe. One of the women was originally from New York. She grew up in a town not too far from where I grew up. In fact, one of her dear friends went to the same school as an ex-boyfriend of mine. Coincidence?

When my breakfast came out, I was greeted with this sight:

Breakfast at Blue Oak
Breakfast at Blue Oak.

The cook came out behind it asking if I wanted lime to add to the dish. “I do what the chef recommends,” I responded. Several minutes into my enjoying the plate immensely, the cook came back out to check on me. I told her how her creation was perfectly spiced. Hot, but not so much so my mouth was on fire. How did she do it? Smoked cayenne and chili flakes. Brilliant!

I made my way back to the house and as I was parking my car saw the best sight. My AirBnB hosts and their daughter were setting up a lemonade stand just like people used to do back in the day. Again, my heart warmed.

I came inside and worked for a few hours. Then, I decided to walk over to the Metaphysical Store I had read about. (NOTE: The woman at the Blue Oak confirmed this was a great spot.)

The enchanted cottage sign out front.
The Meta-physical Store.

When I got inside I inquired about getting a reading. Sure enough, one of their readers was available! For the next hour, Marcia (whom I also highly recommend!) guided me through answers to some of my questions. Namely, “I have no idea what I’m doing traveling around to random towns alone. Can you give me a hint?”

Our discussion left me in a reflective mode. One of her main points was how I need to write about and share my experiences on the road more. And so, dear reader, here we are.

The rest of the day I worked and hung out at the AirBnB. I learned the lemonade stand was a success and Bakersfield really does get super hot in the afternoons. Tonight I’ll be continuing to follow Marcia’s advice (which included: meditate, read more, trust you’re being led, and have fun), and tomorrow I’ll be back on the road again.

My next stop? Seaside, CA. But, for tonight I’m here soaking up the Bakersfield love and remembering that what’s on the surface isn’t always what lies beneath.