On a Rainy Day in Zion

I write to you from Springdale, Utah (NOTE: This is the 38th state I’ve visited! Only 12 more to go!). I’m sitting at the Bumbleberry Inn nestled in the mountains of Zion National Park. Allow me set the stage for you:

Hotel room bed
The bed from which I write to you.
Rain and mountains
The view from my window.

I meant to be hiking during this time, but considering the amount of rain pattering outside, I’m inside writing instead. It’s ok, though. I like the writing as much as the hiking.

In all honesty, I’m conflicted about what to write today. I WANT to write to you about my Albuquerque to Oakland road trip and about how it’s been up to this point. I want to tell you all the growing and learning I’ve done along the way. I also want to share the pictures of the amazing sites I’ve been graced with, and I’d like to tell you the stories of the people I’ve met. But, I can’t do it.

Trust that I WILL share all of this with you someday soon, but know that now, as I write to you from this rainy place, I realize I want to write about those things because they are easy to write about. I also see I NEED to write about the hards things right, for this is a life practice have ignored for far too long. So, writing about the hard things wins out today folks. Here goes.

When I left the East Coast less than a week ago (I write to you on February 14th. I think this will go live a week or two from now.), I left with a heavy heart. As I spent the next few days in New Mexico packing and preparing for the road trip, the weight didn’t lessen. Curious, I reflected back over the past several weeks and recognized I’d been existing in a somewhat depressed state.

For example, I saw that when I looked toward my trip to Europe this Spring, I felt no tingle of excitement. When new (and amazing!) work opportunities were presented to me I saw them as chores instead of fun challenges. When others asked about my journey, I shrank back from sharing it. During these reflections, I saw how inward facing I had become.

As I brought all of this to mind, I also remembered a discussion I had with a friend while in NYC. He was worried about my lack of direction in this current journey, and frankly so was I.

Hell, why don’t I just say it… so AM I.

I should note that this lack of direction is not new. I realize to many of you who know me this may seem inaccurate. I probably seem very sure of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I assure you, this is very much not the case. I’ve said it before. I’ve spent my entire life building the person I think I should be, instead of accepting and loving the person I am. (NOTE: I think alot of us do this. I know I’m certainly not alone in it. Anywhos, back to the story.)

All of these reflections continued to weigh on me. Then, yesterday as I was driving the 4.5 hours from Gallup, NM to Page, AZ, I could take the weight no longer. I started offing it at the Navajo Nation Museum. There I did something I’d never done before. As I walked among the artworks, I stopped in front of each one and asked myself, “How does this piece of art make me feel?” Funny enough, I even answered myself too!

I’m embarrassed to say it, but this self talk was new to me. You see, when you’re busy making a life you think you should have, you don’t ask yourself what life you actually want very often, or at all. Instead, you observe what makes other people happy and try to use those things to make you happy. But.. you never ask yourself if you’re actually happy. Doing so would be sacrilegious! The jig would be up!

Needless to say, I felt a little lighter when I left the museum.

I got back into my Subaru, Liam, and continued the trip. Through mile after mile of reservation land, I noticed small shifts. Instead of listening to music or podcasts the entire time, I took breaks to think. During these breaks I asked myself questions and when I couldn’t come up with answers I sat with the emotions and frustrations.

All of this helped to ease the weight a tad bit more.

Later that evening, I opened up to another friend about everything. I shared with him, quite unwillingly, how lost and lonely and WRONG I’ve been feeling. I also shared with him my reflections from the day; the biggest being me realizing this situation didn’t happen to me. I created my own discontent through my false actions over the years!

I worked to not judge myself. I told myself that whatever I’ve done in my life it’s been to keep myself safe, and I haven’t hurt others in the process. The only real person I’ve hurt is myself… and I’m tired of DOING that. The weight is just too heavy.

For the next two hours, said friend broke down his own journey to me (yet again… thankfully he’s patient). He reiterated to me the keys to finding and loving ourselves which is the only path to releasing a life you think you should live, and gaining the beauty of a life you actually want. It’s the only true way to get rid of the weight I’ve been carrying.

The keys to doing this are so very simply in concept, but putting them into actions is “the work” that everyone keeps talking about.

Here are the keys to life happiness as explained to me by my friend. Hold on to your hat!

1. Practice acceptance
2. When you’re unable to accept, ask yourself “why” until you have the answer.

Easy, right?

Right.

I want to tell you I’ll be able to have a consistent practice of acceptance by the time I’m done with this phase of my journey, but I can’t.

What I do know is that nothing external can make this consistent practice happen. It doesn’t matter how spiritual the practice nor how beautiful the landscape it’s done in. It doesn’t matter how many interactions I have with strangers, nor how many fun facts I learn. I could take all the yoga classes and go to all the meditations in the world and it still wouldn’t guarantee a consistent practice of acceptance to lead me to self love.

This is what I considered as I drove the miles today; the knowledge that it is due to one thing and one thing only if I succeed in this self love endeavor. That thing is both the challenge and the reward. It is the question and the answer. It is the origin AND the destination.

Yeah, that thing is me.

No pressure.

An Unintended Insight

This past Christmas was different. This wasn’t only because I spent it with new friends in a new place. In addition to the location difference, there was a deep change within myself. Being honest, I didn’t know that change was what I was going to write about in this post, but, here we are.

What I wanted to write about was the immense amount of kindness bestowed upon me by my ‘host family’ this holiday season. I was going to tell you about the simplicity, ease, and caring that filled me on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Here I was, in the home of people whom I’d not met until a month earlier, celebrating the most familial of holidays, and feeling completely accepted and at peace.

During the day, I reflected on Christmases past. Most of these I had spent with my family in New York celebrating in our traditional ways. I thought about how closed-in that world of mine was. I recognized how growing up in small place with a large, tight-knit family sheltered me considerably.

I called my parents house early that afternoon, but they were quick to shuffle me off the phone due to a neighbor who was visiting. I noticed how my heart winced at this lack of attention. I then noticed how familiar that wincing felt.

My day continued on. I called it “The Lazy Christmas” because none of us decided to get out of our pajamas much before 3pm, and, even then, it was a stretch. I also saw it was a loving Christmas as I witnessed a mother, father, and daughter who all showed each other, and me, the utmost respect. I was grateful to experience their example.

I was also quite grateful for their hospitality as evidenced here:

Christmas tree in front of a view window
Quite the Christmas view.
Sun setting above trees
I tried to capture the sky at sunset.
Lis standing by a Christmas Tree
“Check out this beautiful tree!”
Bottle of tonic water next to bottle of gin.
South African blue gin with some fancy tonic water.
Cat standing
Sparkles looks on.
Dinner table set for 4 people.
Dinner is served!
Christmas Tree standing next to a fire place.
Christmas by the fire.

After our usual enlightening and fun conversations, I made my way to bed. When alone in the room the thoughts and feelings of home again flowed over me, but this time with ever more sadness. I’d love to tell you the sadness was due to missing my family and our traditions, but it wasn’t. Instead I felt sad for not missing them much at all.

It is this feeling I continue to sit with and process despite decades of running. It is this feeling which I have been denying all this time.

Let’s see what happens as I finally face it, shall we?

Don’t Sweat the Technique**

Yesterday was a hard day for me emotionally. It started off a great day. I felt as if I were finally stepping into my truth. I spent the morning confident and inspired. When the afternoon came though, something shifted. I became downtrodden. I felt overwhelmed with work and trapped in a prison of my own making. I find this place often. Too often.

Getting back to the story… I still haven’t figured out what exactly shifted. I’m unsure if I absorbed and internalized someone else’s negativity, or if my own negativity was surfacing itself to crush my positivity. I do attribute some of it to a friend not responding to my excitement with a equal excitement and my not remembering that her response needn’t effect me. Obviously there is more work to do here, but I digress.

After this episode, I finally made the time to sit down today to write. When I looked at my writing idea notes there was only one there: Post about idolatrizing technique and method from page 123 of Imperfection book.

Oh, Touché, Universe… Touché.

The book I refer to is titled The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. The point I focus on revolves around idolizing external experiences and objects in lieu of loving and supporting oneself from an internal perspective. In this discussion the book states:

Perhaps the most pervasive modern-day idolatry is the worship of “technique”.

The authors go on to define technique as “Attention to methods, use of routines”.

I do this. In fact, I idolize methods and routines ALOT. I convince myself that by following my daily routine, getting all my to dos for a day done, or following a method of another I’ll find wisdom, answers, and contentment. This is, of course, a lie. It’s not the technique that provides the output. It’s us.

It’s me.

When I think about it, I believe this idolization is one of the main causes of strife for me. It’s what I allow to prevent me from serendipitous happenings, from the magic of manifestation, and from the love of my imperfections.

I notice that because of this idolizing, if one part of one of my methods or routines is out of whack, my world comes crashing down. This is, of course, what happened yesterday when a whirlwind of meetings took me away from my normal flow. My foundation was cracked and my house fell in. I really hate when that happens.

How can I turn the tide?

Perhaps I need only take a cue from Rakim:

“Here’s some soothing souvenirs
For all the years you taught to sought the thoughts and ideas
It’s cool when you freak to the beat
But don’t sweat the technique.”

Yeah, that sounds right.


** Inspired by Eric B & Rakim

Characters Old and New: A Reflection

I’m writing this post on the Friday after American Thanksgiving. (NOTE: I refuse to call this day “Black Friday” in my protest against worshiping materialism. Hey… I’m trying here.) I sit reflecting on the events of yesterday which involved me driving across a city I’m not from to have Thanksgiving dinner with a high school friend and her family. The day was humbling, but it was also very comforting.

My biggest take away from the day, at least so far, is how un-alone and taken care of I feel even as I travel the country alone. As I think about yesterday I consider how far I am from the girl I was in upstate New York those 20 years ago, and yet, how I had Thanksgiving dinner with people I know and love from that time in my life. Strange how that happened, right?

So many steps have been taken in-between, and still they led me right back to where I was. I’m changed, yes. Those around me changed as well, of course. But, there’s something that binds us; some sort of deep experience which chiseled its way into our roots and changed us forever.

During these reflections, I also think about, and am grateful for, how much more comfortable I feel in my life. Besides these moments where I’m reinstated into my comfort zone from old, I’m finding goodness and comfort when outside that zone as well.

For example, my travel from Albuquerque to Charlotte involved me flying standby. For those of you who haven’t experienced it, standby is an adventure I recommend going through at least once. It’s a trip… pun intended.

In this case I was flying as a guest of an employee (NOTE: This is called a “non-rev” ticket which I’m gathering stands for Non-Revenue ticket) and this status put me at the bottom of the standby totem pole (NOTE: Employees and their family members get a higher status than my ‘guest’ status). Being at the bottom of said totem pole meant I would be the first to get bumped from a flight if it filled up. The plan was for me to get to the airport early to increase my chances. (NOTE: by early we are talking 4 AM. Yeah, that early.)

When I got to the gate, I told the agent I was flying standby. She took my name then asked me to sit it out and wait. Several moments later my friend in Charlotte said my chances of getting there were slim to none if I followed our original path. She suggested I go speak to the gate agent and ask her advice. I began panicking. I didn’t want to spend the whole day trying to get on a flight only to get stranded in a random city.

So, as the agents began boarding guests on the plane, I went up to the desk afraid to be interrupting their most important task. I explained my situation to one of the agents, apologized for the inconvenience, and hoped. She immediately put me at ease. “No worries. I’ll take care of you like I take care of my kids in these situations.”

Sure enough, she re-rerouted me completely and I made it to Charlotte several hours later. I have no idea why she bestowed her kindness on me, but she was sure to add, “Don’t you worry, girl. I’ll be watching over you all day.” Wow!

Shortly after this interaction, I was seated waiting for the next flight when I man sat down next to me. We began talking and very soon got to the topic of my location independent life. Instead of asking me the usual questions, he said, “Do you get bored”?

You know it, Mister.

Come to find out he was once a nomad himself. We carried on an in-depth conversation where he shared his experiences, reaffirmed my lifestyle, and provided me the ever needed comfort and confidence.

So you see, between yesterday, and moments like those I’ve shared here, it’s hard to feel alone in the world even when I spend SO much time alone. These moments, though not new, have also become so much more meaningful and impactful as I’ve stripped away the noise which once distracted me from them.

I like to think there are always characters like these coming on and off the stage in this play we call life. My goal is to be the best version of myself during those scenes, and the ones in-between too.

Getting to the Root

I write to you after a week spent back on the East Coast. My current location is Lincolnton, NC; a smaller town about 45 minutes outside of Charlotte. It’s rural here. It’s maybe not as rural as where I grew up, but there is certainly a great deal here which reminds me of my hometown.

Not the least of these reminders are my childhood friends who currently live in the area. In fact, I’m here because a friend whom I’ve known since I was 4 years old needed a pet sitter while her and her husband honeymoon in New Zealand. I am delighted to be that pet sitter! (NOTE: Their pets are really cute… AND they have a beagle)

Beagle on a bed
Jack gets into bed.
Cat posing
Arya strikes a pose.
Cat curled up
Pickle settles in for TV time.
dog and cats curled up on a couch
The pets curl up for a family cuddle on the couch.

Being surrounded by reminders of my youth has me thinking of a line from a book I recently read:

After all, it is the root that looks after the survival of an organism. It is the root that has withstood severe changes in climatic conditions. And it is the root that has regrown trunks time and time again. It is in the roots that centuries of experience are stored, and it is this experience that has allowed the tree’s survival to the present day. ~ The Hidden Life of Trees; Peter Wohlleben

When I read this, I paused. I’ve often thought of my current journey as one in which I’m getting back in touch with my roots. When one spends so much time alone without much external stimulus and distraction, it’s kind of hard not to go through this process. It’s a process where I’m constantly figuring out and trying to own who I am, why I am, what I believe, and how I want to live in this world. It’s also a process where I investigate how these beliefs were established, or became rooted, to be begin with.

If, as the author says, a being’s roots are the key to its survival of chaotic and changing times, it seems a necessary exercise to get back in touch with mine. After-all, they are what store my experiences and allow me to be who I am in my present day life. If I don’t unearth them, I fear I’ll remain a shell of what others say I should be instead of identifying with my core and living my own narrative.

And you know what… I’ve lived as a shell for far too long.

Guess I’ll keep digging.

Thoughts From 10 Days in My Hometown

Earlier this Summer, I shared with you some reflections I had during a road trip I took from Washington State to Los Angeles. After said trip, I hopped on a plane to New York. This flight kicked off my July and August on the East Coast. During that time, I’ve traveled up to New England, down to the South, and back again… an adventure I’ll write about in future posts. Before this adventure started, however, I spent 10 days in my hometown. It’s this stint I want to reflect on today. Here goes!

Balancing adventure time with staying still time is important

When I arrived in upstate NY, one of the very first things I noticed was my need to stay put. I had a great desire to not leave my parents’ house. Normally, I’d try to get out at least once or twice to see old friends and family, but not this go around. I simply wanted peace and quiet. Luckily, staying in a town where cell service still isn’t reliable was just the place to fill this requirement.

In reflection, I saw that all the energy I expended on the road needed to be balanced out, and boy am I glad I took the time.

This isn’t my home anymore

This was a big one! Despite all the peace and quiet being helpful, I finally recognized it wasn’t on my terms. I saw that my parents live here 24 hours a day / 7 days a week / 52 weeks a year. Who am I to come in and request they not start lawn mowing at 7 in the morning so I could get more sleep? Who am I to ask that they free up the bathroom in the mornings so I could get ready for work? I used to be a resident here, but I’m clearly not anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I have stayed at my parents for days and weeks on end a time or two during the past 18 years of my life. However, this time around I connected with the fact that I simply don’t live here anymore and I no longer have any sort of say in what goes on in the house. It’s not my place to make requests or to change anyone else’s routine. I saw how before when I would come back to visit, I would slide back into my roll as a child living in the house. This time I recognized how this slide no longer serves me (it probably never did) and I pulled back on it right quick.

This meant recognizing that when I’m here I’m a guest who has to maneuver my time around the routines and constructs of my parents. This is something I’m finding increasingly frustrating, which also means it’s something I’ll be addressing in future visits (either by staying somewhere else or preparing my schedule differently).

In addition, I saw this small town also wasn’t my home anymore. Yes, I grew up here, have a great deal of family still here, and can probably go into many of the local establishments and be recognized, but I simply do not hold dear the same values and beliefs of the surrounding community. My world has shifted, and my points of view along with it. I’m a visitor here, and knowing this makes me feel both excommunicated and liberated.

I’m not sure where these realizations will take me, but I am sure recognizing them is important (and probably something I should have done long, long ago).

We grow up and we grow apart. That’s OK.

Going along with the above themes, I also realized how much I’ve grown apart from those I spent much of my childhood and young adult years with. I attended a wedding shower for a friend I’ve known since pre-school and felt fraudulent for doing so. Having gone many places and done many things in my life without having my hometown friends around me, I suppose this feeling only makes sense. We aren’t on the same pages anymore. This doesn’t mean we don’t love each other, it’s just a reality of being an adult who leaves.

I know the sooner I own and accept this fact, the lighter and more prepared for additional growth I’ll be.

In Conclusion

On July 1st my friend and I started our East Coast road trip which will be featured in the next installment of this blog. Until then, I find myself in this sort of limbo between who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. I suppose this limbo is what living life is all about, though. Who knew?