Putting Work Aside and Making *More* Progress – A True Story

I’ve been back in “The States”, more specifically back in Oakland, for two weeks. It feels really good to be in a familiar place; living in a familiar house with a familiar pet. All this familiarity means I don’t have to figure out the rhythms of my daily life. It means I can settle back in to where I was, and extend forward from there.

That’s one thing about being on the road that I haven’t talked about all that much; the having to start over in each place I land. Of course, I’m not starting entirely anew each time, but I am having to figure out all the simple things which I took for granted when I lived a more stationary life (i.e. morning/evening routines, knowing where the grocery store was, knowing how to use public transit, knowing the language!… you get the idea).

It’s been nice to not feel demoted back to the beginning and to be able to just live.

Garden at the back of the cottage
It was a comfort to see the garden in bloom.
bougainvillea
The Bougainvillea welcomes me.
Chair on back deck with forest trees and sunlight peeking through.
The familiarity (and beauty!) of this scene didn’t disappoint.

My first week back I was diligent about being kind to myself and letting myself recover, physically, mentally, and emotionally, from traveling halfway around the world.

When the weekend came, I kept this “being kind to self” mentally at the forefront when I decided to honor the voices in my head that had been yelling at me to “Get to Walnut Creek!”

Where?

Walnut Creek is a smaller town about 20 minutes drive from where I’m staying. It’s quite a normal American city, and in fact when I told the Oakland homeowners I was trying to get there, they looked at me confused.

Formosa Mountain Dog standing
Fay herself was confused.

“Why Walnut Creek? There’s nothing all that special there.”

“No idea, but the voices are a-yelling to go.”

Before I took the short ride over the hills I decided to do some research on the area. I do this frequently. I search for the town on Google Maps, then will look around for places of interest. Finally I’ll save said places to my “want to go” list.

As I was investigating Walnut Creek in this way, I caught myself saving some pretty unremarkable locations to potentially visit: TJ Maxx, Walgreens, Whole Foods. Observing this behavior I thought to myself, Don’t you want to go on an amazing hike or wander the downtown area’s local shops instead?

My answer? Nope!

All I really wanted to do was run errands to some plaza malls in a car. It was a Saturday straight out of my American youth!

Noticing this thought, I saw why I was being called to the town. I was anchoring myself into a familiar day and putting aside the active “self work” for awhile.

It may sound silly, but putting the active work aside was scary! As I considered how my Saturday was playing out, I couldn’t help but hear the OTHER voices (yeah… I have a few in the old noggin. I’m sure you do too should you choose to listen.) asking:

Shouldn’t I be doing something progressive with my time?
Shouldn’t I be hiking or thrift store shopping or walking down whimsical streets reflecting on my life?
Shouldn’t I be working on being courageous?
Shouldn’t I be doing all of this instead of being the quintessential American consumer?

Instead of listening to these voices, I opted to trust my gut and do the activities that made me FEEL calm when I thought about them. (NOTE: I find the italicized voices above FEEL different in my body than the others. They cause me to feel more anxious, tightening of my shoulders and chest, versus feeling calm and expansive.) I also opted to sit with and accept that these activities didn’t seem all that glamorous, and that this was OK.

Looking back, I recognize that by taking this stance, I was, in effect, “doing the work”… but I digress.

It was scary to stop the active work because doing so felt like I was wasting time, being lazy, or being ungrateful for the life I have by not putting said life to use; none of which I want to be. Further, being inactive gave me the perception that all my progress would stop, be thrown away, and I would have to start from square one if I wanted to continue.

I reminded myself that the opposite of all these assumptions is true; stopping active work is very necessary in order to reach my efforts’ full potential.

I’ve heard many times how my brain needs downtime to be it’s most productive at work. It was reflecting on this this weekend when I remembered it is the same with working on myself.

If I’m always actively pushing forward, I’m not letting the knowledge and learnings I accrue absorb and ruminate in my subconscious. If I don’t let this below the surface work take place, I’m unlikely to manifest and realize the benefits in my conscious life.

NOTE: This is why savasana is so important at the end of yoga practice. It’s not just a time to lay there exhausted and elated that the pain is over. It’s a time to allow the body and mind to absorb the benefits and muscle memory to make the next practice all the better.

I think the hardest part of keeping all of this very important knowledge top of mind, and why I think I still have these anxieties about stopping the active work even though I KNOW the above evidence is true, is because the non-active work doesn’t always have an immediate, concrete outputs.

For example, if I run 5 miles 3 days a week and eat well for a few months, I see my body adjust. The results are not always so obvious with mental and emotional work. It’s not A + B = C like with the exercise and eat right example. It’s more like A + B = maybe bits of C, or A*2 = B – C, or B-3 = A*C…Ok I’m getting out of hand with the math examples; I’ll stop here.

The point is, I find it challenging because the outputs aren’t always apparent and immediately measurable.

That said, I did notice some results after putting aside the active work that Saturday. For most of the day, I felt an immense amount of gratitude for giving myself a break. My brain greatly enjoyed the reprieve from having to decipher and process and thus grew clearer. My soul was able to ease into a quiet night at home with a book I adored, and my body benefited from a restful and refreshing night’s sleep.

Can I be sure these were direct outcomes of giving myself a non-active self-work day? Honestly, I’ll never know. Was the ROI positive in the long term? I have no idea! However, now I can live with the discomfort of not knowing.

Why?

Because I DO know how exhausted always actively working to find myself and be happy makes me.

I also have come to realize that the results of my active work are STILL not concrete. My actions themselves are concrete, and they make me FEEL like I’m making progress, but if I actually stop and take a hard look at the process, the results remain as nebulous as my non-active work results.

In short, whether I’m actively working on myself or laying in savasana all day I’ll never know “for sure” if I’m “doing it right”.

With that said, I figure I may as well take a chance and look to reap the immediate, short-term benefits that I know will come from choosing to give myself a break when I feel I need one. I’ll take the warm, ease-filled feelings of giving myself permission to do something routine over the sticky weight of pushing “the work” forward any day.

At least that’s the choice I made that Saturday… and that’s enough for a start.

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.

How Owning My Mindset Creates My Reality

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

On my recent flight from Budapest to Warsaw, I witnessed a tender moment that almost brought me to tears. I was seated on the aisle of a three person row. To my left, a young boy sat by the window, and his father occupied the middle place. About an hour into the flight, just before we started our descent into Warsaw, I observed the father signal for the flight attendant to come over.

They exchanged a few words, of which I knew zero because they were either in Hungarian or Polish, then the flight attendant withdrew to the front of the plane. He returned several moments later with a small package, a toy replica of the airplane we were on. I noted how I’d never seen anyone actually purchase this type of good on a flight before. Doing so always seemed faux paux, but at that moment I couldn’t understand why,.

The man lovingly handed the item to the young boy who gratefully accepted it. I smiled to myself; warmed, and deeply moved by the sweetness of interaction.

I noticed my response, and then took a moment to investigate and break it down. I realized my reaction was based on me viewing the father, who was about my age, through adult eyes. I sympathized with his “being a parent” imposter syndrome that I hear from most of my friends with children, and took joy in assuming his self-doubt dissipated ever so slightly due to his son’s happy face.

I also empathized with the young boy’s point of view. I recognized the immense joy he must have felt after, what to an adult, would be such a simple act, and I let myself sink into the belonging and support he must have held in his young heart.

It was a great moment.

But… here’s the next thought I had:

I have no idea if this story is true.

Yeah, I know what I saw; a man about my age handed a toy plane to a young boy. But, I had no proof that they were even father and son! Did they really feel all the sweetness and joy I described to myself? No clue! The man could be a criminal kidnapping the boy and giving him a toy to keep him quiet, OR he could be a step-father trying to win the love of a spoiled-rotten young child.

I determined that in the end it didn’t matter. What I TOLD myself was my reality, and the story, true or not, brought me joy. This is when the realization happened.

I saw how a simple thought (whether it was true or not) had both changed my mood entirely and crafted my reality. Then it hit me! “What I think has the power to change my outlook on life. If I don’t take ownership of my mindset and what I think, I’ll never be able to architect my best life because someone else will always have power over me.”

Whew… it was a moment, and the resulting thoughts are worthy of some dissecting.

Let’s start with the term “owning my mindset”? To me, this means being in control of how I think about and react to the situations, good and bad, that life throws at me. It also involves being responsible for how I see the world, and the stories I tell myself about what I see.

If I tell myself bad stories about something that happened, my world will probably seem pretty negative. However, if I tell myself good stories, the world will not only seem more positive, but I will also feel empowered to feed the courage I need to make the big changes that make me my best self.

Front of a bookstore and cafe in Budapest
I could look at this as a simple bookshop, or I can be open to the magic of the working space and secret garden within.
Line of beer bottles on a counter
I could tell myself being 37 years old and drinking beers all day in Budapest is irresponsible… or I could look at it as a gift.
Burgers, blues, and beers festival grounds
If I get hung up on telling myself I should be DOING something productive, I might miss out on some great live music at the Budapest Burgers, Blues and Beer Fest.
Outdoor Beer Garden in the Park
Some may look at a Tuesday beer garden visit as unproductive, I chose to look at it as awesome.

One example of “owning my mindset” was last August when I found myself in Bakersfield, California. Shortly after my time there, I wrote a piece depicting my experience of the city.

The short synopsis: Lis arrives in Bakersfield with the perception that it’s a rough, and therefore undesirable, place to be. Hoping to make the most of it, she decides to open her mind and heart, and after a few days of owning her mind, she has experiences which exemplify the beautiful side of the roughness. End scene.

I went to Bakersfield with preconceived notions, and I could have held onto the viewpoints that it was a harsh, mean, and dirty place to be. I could have let those define my time in the city. However, when I took ownership of my thoughts, decided I wanted a positive experience, and then let life happen, I was able to see beyond the reputation to the good that surrounded the town. Instead of having a negative experience, I had quite a positive one, and even hope to go back one day.

Reflecting on this, I asked myself, “Sure owning your mindset works in these smaller moments, but if all that’s needed to change your reality is a change in your mindset, how can disease, despair, injustice, and poverty still be so prevalent in the world we live in? How can so many bad and unfair events still be happening to so many undeserving and innocent people? Can people really change their realities by taking ownership of and changing their minds?

I thought long and hard about this one, as it’s a line I don’t tow lightly, but after sitting with the discomfort of these thoughts, I saw the answer clearly. Yes, changing your mind IS all that’s needed to change YOUR reality, but changing your reality can’t change what happens to you. Let me explain.

It’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Many events take place outside of our heads. People come into our lives and treat us poorly. We lose our jobs due to poor company management. We face injustice due to ignorance and hate. A storm hits our city and takes away our home and all we’ve worked for. These events are out of our control. No matter what happens in our heads, these events transpire.

The good news is it’s not what happens outside of you that defines your reality. Yeah, I said it! So what DOES define YOUR reality? How you think about and react to the external. That choice is 100% up to you!

A great example of taking ownership of one’s mind to shape one’s reality comes from Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime. The book is his story about growing up a mixed race boy in South Africa both during, and after, apartheid. (NOTE: it’s a great read! I highly recommend it!)

Throughout the book, Trevor’s mother is owning her mind, and thus defining her reality. A highly religious woman, she is someone who knows herself, acts from her inner being, and, when good or bad events come her way, accepts and views them through the lens of “God has his reasons”. She knows who she is, and her reality is never swayed. Of course, that doesn’t mean only good things happen to her.

After a harrowing near-death experience, Trevor sits over her hospital bed and says to her, “You’re lucky to be alive. I still can’t believe you didn’t have any health insurance.” “Oh but I do have insurance,” she said. “You do?” he replied. “Yes. Jesus.”

The woman didn’t dwell on the fact that she almost died, she owned her reaction and reframed it based on her deep seated beliefs and inner knowing. Because of this, she didn’t lead with fear, and she didn’t retreat from living to her fullest. She kept on going through life her way, no matter what happened outside of her. I’d wager that she lived the best life she could because of this outlook.

Violinist in Budapest
A violinist owns his reality by playing his finest despite very hot conditions.

Once I had this definition of “owning my mindset”, I started to ask myself, “How do I DO it?”

If you’ve been reading this blog, the first step should come as no surprise. Like Trevor’s mom in the above example, you have to first:

Know yourself

To know yourself, you must go into some sort of stillness.

This could be a formal meditation practice, or sitting still on the train or bus each day without pulling up something to distract you. It might mean taking 5 – 10 minutes before bed to reflect on your day and ask yourself what brought you joy, what took joy from you, where you showed courage, and where you chose compassion. Any of these options going into stillness in my book.

Saint Stephen's Cathedral in Budapest
I found stillness starring at this beauty.
Saint Matthias Church Square in Budapest
I found even more stillness on the walking tour through Budapest. Seeing these sights around me it was impossible not to stop and take them in.

In a video you’ve seen me mention before, The Art of Stillness, the speaker talks about moving to Kyoto, Japan from Manhattan. He notes how living in a place with limited distractions is “clearly not ideal for career advancement nor exciting for social diversion. But I realized that it gives me what I prize most which is days and hours.” He continues saying, “I’ve found that the best way that I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was, oddly, by going nowhere, just by sitting still.”

However you can make the time and space for it, be still each day and you will no doubt be on the path to self knowing.

It’s important to note that being still isn’t the only method necessary for acquiring self knowledge, nor is owning your mindset and telling yourself good stories the only way to craft the reality you want.

Once you’ve got a stillness practice on lock and you’ve begun observing and owning your mind, you must begin to ask yourself an all important question. This question is imperative to creating an authentic reality:

Where am I lying to myself?

I lie to myself a lot. I believe I do this to protect my status quo way of thinking. As an example, when I was in Budapest earlier this Summer I was getting frustrated at not knowing the language. My lack of knowledge caused me to feel powerless in many of my experiences.

I then observed myself (through stillness) starting to blame this powerlessness on the world around me. I was faulting everything else for my lack. When I started to feel these frustrations I knew it was time to ask myself, “Where am I lying to myself?”

Hungarian street sign
What’s in 15 meters? I have no idea!
Budapest Building Facade
A facade is only that. We need to dig deeper.

I answered, “You’re the one giving your power away. No one here cares whether you know the language or not. Take back your power.” And that’s just what I did.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ~Alice Walker

The situations I encountered which I previously found frustrating didn’t decrease in number, but they DID decrease in frustration because I was now owning my reaction to them. Instead of being embarrassed or feeling vulnerable, I embraced my otherness and love of self. It was a simple mind switch, but it made a world of difference.

So yes, it really is as simple as changing what we think. How can I be so sure? Yeah, these examples are nice anecdotes, but how do I know this can happen out there in the “real world”? Because I’m living it!

Besides the examples I’ve provided so far, there’s the overarching narrative of my life. Oh yeah, I’m going there. Hold on to your hat!

As a woman raised in the rural United States, my entire reality/mindset growing up, what I was told my life needed to be in order for me to live my best self, was one of 1. find a husband, 2. have kids, and 3. be a dutiful wife, mother, and local citizen, and you will find happiness.. I had no other understanding of what life should be.

When I got to my early 30s and was nowhere close to this narrative I TOLD MYSELF I wanted to live, a dear friend said to me, “You know. Maybe you’re lying to yourself. You’re a person who will work to achieve anything you want. If you really wanted this life you say you want, you would have worked harder for it. Maybe it’s not what you want.”

Mind blown!

He was right, of course. Once I saw this narrative was not a reality I wanted, but rather a reality taught to me over the course of decades, I realized I needed to get my mind right and align it with my heart. Instead of beating myself up for being bad at finding a husband, a place to settle, or just bad at being a woman in general, I owned my perspective. I took ownership of my mind.

Now, here I am several years later, no longer faking that I want on that traditional path (though the ghosts of it linger, I won’t deny it).

This doesn’t mean only good things happen to me now that I own my mindset. Bad events do still happen, but now instead of letting them own my reality I take my power back and react to them in a much more centered, powerful, confident way. By no longer reacting from fear, I am directing my life, my way.

You can now see how owning my mind, and thus my reality, is the second structure needed to architect my best life. It’s a structure that, much like the first, any of us can work on no matter our environments.

By owning my mind I am in control of how I view and react to what happens outside of me. I’m no longer at the whim of others, or feel under the control of the powers surrounding me. I am my own master, which leaves me feeling afraid, alone, and powerless no more!.

On the contrary, I feel confident, assured, and empowered to act on my own instincts and desires. With these beliefs to anchor me, I can then take the hard, unconventional actions needed to walk my own path toward architecting the life that’s best for me.

It’s on me, no one else can do it.

At least… that’s what I like to think.


My Best Guess at Cultivating Happiness (So Far)

I told you how the morning after my arrival in Billingshurst, UK I woke with a terror. That moment sparked some further ideas on happiness that I want to run by you. I’ll start by describing that waking up in more detail.

As I groggily questioned the source of my fear, I recalled how, as of just a few hours prior, the homeowners had departed; leaving me completely alone in their home (except for the two very cute, cuddly basset hounds on either side of me whom I would be watching for the next 2 weeks). I resonated with my solitude deeply, which only served to stoke the flames of my anxiety.

Two Basset Hounds seated on a kitchen floor looking at the camera
The two bassets: Penny and Milly.

As the intensity of my horror strengthened, I imagined the feeling as a sort of ghostly transparent, skeleton-like hand hovering over my torso. Visualizing the hand was scary enough, but then I saw the apparition reach in to my chest, find my heart, and grip it so tightly I couldn’t breath.

That’s when the thoughts start. The self depreciating, growth denying, inhabilitating thoughts we all feel when we’re on the precipice of expansion and are afraid to take the next step.

What if something happens to me while I’m here? Who would I call? Why did I come here alone? I’ve made a terrible mistake stepping off the path most traveled and will certainly be punished for it.

I watched as the vice clenched tighter with each debilitating notion. Eventually, the moment passed and I was able to go about the rest of the day, but the essence didn’t dissipate entirely.

A week later I woke around 3am. I did that a lot during my stay in England. Maybe it was jet-lag, the suffocation of two basset hounds fighting to lay on top of me (one of which weighs 60 pounds and is convinced she’s a lap dog), or the fact that I’m not a good sleeper, but there I was again, lying awake in the early morning hours.

Human between two basset hounds on a bed
I was the human in a basset hound sandwich.

This night, the hand reappeared. As it crept towards me, it brought with it a reminder how all week long images of the places, people, and events from my life in New York City (where I lived from 2008 – 2016) pushed their way into my head as my heart longed to be amongst them.

In an attempt to fend off my grisly foe, I considered my yearning for the city. Missing NYC seemed quite strange because I was just there no more than a couple of weeks before. Having such a strong pull felt out of place, misaligned, and unnecessary if its cause was timing. This made me question what else was at its root?

I thought more about New York, hoping that doing so would quell my adversary and allow me to return to my slumber. I brought to mind the wonderful life I had there. I reflected on the career I built, and on how I was so passionate about it then. I imagined my life of friends, plays, sports, and being out just about every night of the week. I loved those times.

I chided myself for not keeping this world alive. How could I throw a captivating life that I worked so hard for away?! The hand clamped down on my heart.

I struggled out a breath and then pointed out to myself that I left NYC because it was no longer for me. I know I left for good reasons, and, although I love visiting, I reaffirmed to myself that I no longer have a need to live there.

I ended this nocturnal self discussion with, “That life in NYC wasn’t yours’.”

The clasp released and I sucked in a deep breath, as I thought, “Oh, that’s what my NYC thoughts are really about. I crave the distractions I had there. I’m grasping for that ability to ignore the realities of who I really am again.”

When I lived in New York, I built this “never ending, something to keep me busy” life and used it as my identity. I could point to it and say “that’s me”, and all was well with the world because I could prove I MADE it. Even better the always busy side of me never had time to examine if I was being honest with myself or not (Not-so-spoiler-alert: I wasn’t).

After 8 years of pointing though, I felt empty. I felt empty because, well, I was empty. All of those items I was pointing at were not actually ME.

This line of thinking stifled my anxieties for the night, and I was able to find rest once again, but when I awoke the next day, I was changed. I had somehow (my subconscious at work while I slept?) concocted a realization from the previous night’s narrative.

I originally thought that ghastly hand of terror was brought on by my fear of being alone without others, but after my dance with my devils that night, I realized this original line of thinking was incorrect. There was one thing and one thing only that sparked that hand’s creeping and crawling towards me:

My deep-seated despair of being alone while not knowing myself.

Yeah, sit with that for a second. I did.

I asked myself why I am afraid of being alone not knowing myself, and here’s the logic I came up with.

I don’t know myself, so I look to things outside of myself to define me (other people, identities, activities, etc). I’ve done this my whole life. I call myself a jock or a smart kid or a consultant or a User Experience professional… you name it!

Now, the cool thing about doing this is by externalizing my identity, I’m no longer responsible for living my best life. The external qualities which I deem as me become responsible for my happiness. I can always blame them if something goes awry. It’s a win-win! I get an identity AND I give up responsibility.

For example, if I realize I’m unhappy in my work, I can blame that work for making me unhappy instead of accepting that maybe I didn’t put in the effort of considering what makes me happy professionally, nor did I have the courage to go towards it.

I do this because I’m scared to fail. I can blame the external things and then… well then I never fail!

When I’m alone and don’t know myself, I’m without the objects or people I use to define who I am, and to whom I give my power. This is REALLY SCARY because it causes me to realize that either:

A. I’m nobody or
B. I really AM responsible for my happiness, but I’ve been slacking on this front BIG TIME.

Even worse, if I admit B is the answer (it is), then I can’t help but see that I have a whole lot of work to put in to make myself happy. This is a terrifying prospect to face, because I could always fail if I actually take responsibility and TRY.

The solution I went to in the past was ensuring I was never alone (Sound familiar?). I kept myself busy, around people, part of something.

Then I came to see that this solution is not sustainable, especially for those of us who want to architect our best lives. Eventually I will be alone, it’s inevitable.

Further, if I want to architect my best life I NEED to be alone without distractions in order to process my life, consider what brings me joy, consider what takes joy from me, and then conjure up the resolve to act on these findings.

So, what do I DO to keep that hand of terror at bay?

I do the hard work of going inward and getting to know myself.

I often say I’m on this journey to uncover how to architect my best life. I’m telling you today one of the most important steps in doing so is to do like the ancients have been telling us for years!

“Know thyself.” ~ Socrates

Yes, the ancient Greeks knew how important this act of self discovery is, which is why they inscribed the words on to one of their sacred temples.

In conjunction with Western Philosophy, The Tao Te Ching taunts that:

Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing the self is enlightenment. Mastering others requires force. Mastering the self requires strength.

Yeah so I’d say getting to know ourselves is pretty damn important.

How do you get to know yourself?

The Lis Hubert version begins with honestly and extensively answering these questions:

What brings me joy?

What takes joy from me?

For example:

Basset hound resting head on an end table.
Go ahead and try to not smile at this one. Definite joy bringer!
A sign which reads "Welcome to Arundel Historic Town"
I love a historic town.
Horsham coffee roaster sign
Locally roasted coffee ALWAYS brings me joy.
Arundel Castle in West Sussex, England
Seeing a castle always brings me joy.
A large art piece on the side of castle walls.
Im welcomed with some fun wall art.
Roof of The Parish and Priory Church of Saint Nicholas Arundel
It brought me great happiness to look up at this lovely scene.
Billinghurst park lawn
Walking through nature always brings joy to my heart.
A West Sussex footpath
Walking down a footpath in the English countryside? A shoe in for joy!

The experiences you see above all brought me joy. However it’s important to remember that I have to continue to ask why they brought me joy, AND I have to be HONEST with the answers if I’m going to get to know myself.

It’s also important to note that I won’t just ask and answer these questions once and be done with it. I must continually ask and answer these questions for as long as I am alive, AND in order for me to do this questioning and answering properly:

I must be still.

Recently, I came upon this video talking about the importance of stillness.

Funny enough the speaker talks about how much he loves traveling. About a minute into the video, he points out that, “One of the first things you learn when you travel is that nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it.”

He goes on to describe how to “bring the right eyes” to life. His version was to go into stillness. For him it was “The only way that I could find to sift through the slideshow of my experience and make sense of the future and the past.”

NOTE: He also talks about how he had a fabulous job and life in NYC, and then says “I could never separate myself enough from it to hear myself think or really to understand if I was truly happy”. Coincidence? I think not!

Ultimately the speaker’s advice is “to sit still long enough to find out what moves you most to recall where your truest happiness lies, and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.”

I’ve decided the only way forward is to take the “making a life” path. I know that in order to make that life fulfilling, I need to make it mine.

If I continue to go forward without knowing myself, I will never find personal fulfillment or meaning because instead of living my own life, I’ll be living another person/people’s story, and that story can never fill me up.

I must then know myself, find my own story. How I do this is up to me. No one else, no privilege, no environment, no other people, nothing outside me is responsible. If I fail to be happy, there is only one person to blame. Myself.

Either way, there’s failure to be faced. I’ll either risk failing to find true happiness or risk failing in my attempts to try.

I think it’s time to opt for trying.


An (Un)usual Arrival

My arrival in England was simultaneously normal and not so.

The red-eye flight landed at Gatwick on time (around 10am local time), and we got to the gate and off the plane without issue. Once inside the airport, I made my routine path to the restroom to both brush my teeth and ensure I looked like a person one would trust to take care of their home and pets for a few weeks.

Appearance intact, I put my carry-on bags in place (backpack holding all my clothes and laptop on my back, office bag holding my notebooks, chargers, and necessary next day toiletries on a shoulder, and cross-body purse holding purse things across the other shoulder), then half-awake walked my way to baggage reclaim.

Thankfully my carry-on sized roller was among the first to show itself, and with all my bags accounted for, I regarded my air travel a success. Then, I headed towards customs.

NOTE: I was delighted to find that England’s passport/customs process was among the easiest I’ve seen. It goes a little something like this (for US citizens it does, anyway). Wait in a short line (due to the many lanes they had open). Walk up to a machine and set your passport down to scan. Walk into the UK. Not bad.

Walking out of customs, I saw the homeowner holding a “Lis” sign and a steaming hot, fresh seeming cup of coffee. Woohoo! She and I chatted as we made our way to her car, then laughed as I, embarrassingly, tried to get in on the drivers’ side of the vehicle (“Everyone does that.” she assured me).

She drove us the 25 minutes home, where upon arrival the bassets I’d be sitting were quite excited to see me (in truth they are excited to see most anyone).

Two basset hounds asleep on a couch.
You can see how energetic these two can be. Mildred is in the foreground, Penelope in the background.

We entered the kitchen where I met the second homeowner, and the three of us humans went about the familiar (to me) dance of getting to know the people we were trusting with our dearest possessions. (They trusting me with their home and pets. Me trusting them with my safety and security.)

They showed me their narrow, stair-driven, but quite adorable home, and explained what to keep an eye on and how all the home paraphernalia worked.

Next, we settled back in the kitchen and discussed the dogs’ routines, what else I should expect during my stay, (milkman on Tuesday and Saturday. Fish man is in town on Thursday.) and then planned out the remainder of our day together. They were leaving the next day for Canada, and per usual we had planned a day of overlap time together in the house.

Orange juice in a glass bottle in front of cookbookes
Fresh Orange Juice arrives each Saturday.
Eggs sitting on the kitchen counter
We also get fresh eggs delivered each Saturday. I’m digging this buy local life!

The day together involved walking the girls, then meeting up for an afternoon cider at the pub a few doors down. This agenda suited my jet-lagged state quite well.

The Six Bells pub from the High Street
The Six Bells is where we had a proper cider welcome.

Further intricacies of our time together involved the Canadian born homeowner (the second homeowner I met) helping me to adjust to the many word differences I would encounter here in England. For example, he explained that the ATM is called the Cash Point, that you don’t order coffee by asking for a “coffee” but rather asking for an americano/espresso/latte, and that hot sauce is few and far between.

You know, the important things.

As you can see.. all was going according to a normal house sitter script.

Later that night, the parents of the English born homeowner joined us for a dinner of burgers, ciders, and beers. They also stayed the night as all four of them were flying out early the next morning.

Let me stop here.

Know that although the particulars of my arrival at a new home change each time (i.e. the people, settings, pets), the flow of is one you’ve heard time and again (if you’ve followed this blog. If not you’ll just have to go back and read OR you can just trust me.)

Here’s where it differed.

As we 5 sat outside eating together, I had a moment. Chalk it up to my lack of sleep, my jet-lag, the cider and wine, or all of the above, but for the first time during an arrival, I not only saw, but deeply felt, my outsiderness. This had nothing to do with how my hosts were treating me, but had everything to do with my growth and reflection throughout this journey.

When my house-sitting adventures began I felt quite included and “a part of” during my arrival times with the homeowners. I would marvel at how in no time I’d made new friends who let me into their homes and trusted me with their pets.

Over time I noticed how when the sits were over our lives separated again; we went back to our normal ebbs and flows without each other. More often than not I’d not encounter their world again, despite having such an intense connection when we first met. (I should note this “going back to normal” is to be expected and isn’t negative, AND in some cases I have been lucky enough to stay in touch with homeowners!)

In that moment over dinner, I resonated with the divergent part of the housesitting story, and sat with the knowledge that I’d probably not see or hear from the people seated around me again after my departure.

Then, my perspective darkened. I foresaw their life going on as normal and amazing, and mine going on with me being deeply impacted by opening myself up to their home and pets but being left alone without their energies to fuel and validate me.

I was ashamed of my perceived inequality of effect we’d have on each other’s lives. I then labeled myself as someone unable to figure out their own life, and thus needing to hover in and out of the lives of others to leech off their life experiences. I considered myself needy, unsettled, and inadequate.

This moment came and went fairly quickly, but the aftermath of it stays with me as I continue to sit and wonder narratives like:

Stepping into someone else’s life doesn’t make it my life. BUT stepping into someone else’s life is what I do as a house sitter. So then, what IS my life?

The next morning I awoke around 7am and dutifully reminded myself where I was (“You’re in Billingshurst, England sitting Penelope and Mildred…”). I was exhausted from the previous day’s travel, and curious why I hadn’t heard anything from the dogs when the family left for their flight earlier that morning. Was I really that tired that I slept through 4 people and 2 dogs living a morning together? I learned that yes, I was.

I walked down the many stairs to find the girls sleeping soundly in the lounge (or living room as we Americans say), then stepped into the kitchen where instead of the shame I expounded upon myself the night before, I was greeted with the most marvelous departing gifts. Cleary the homeowners were grateful for my services.

3 ciders and a bottle of wine with a note
Penny looks over at me as I ogle the homeowners’ generous gifts!

After taking stock that everything was as it should be (despite my half chewed flip-flop. Touche, Bassets) I climbed my way back up to the top floor, bassets following me all the while, and the three of us laid down for another few hours.

Back of a narrow town house
This is the house from the backyard. The room I’m staying in is the top set of windows.

When we woke back up, a feeling of terror arose with me.

I’m alone in England. I know absolutely zero people in this town. How will I meet people?

I had felt this feeling before, but had never given it a voice. I made note, and reminded myself I still had no answers to these questions. But, I made my way back downstairs to consider it all. I spent all weekend considering it. This is what I came up with so far:

I love my life. I love that I can sit and write or read in places like these:

Roses bloom in the fenced in backyard
Roses in bloom!

Then hangout for a bit with friends such as these:

Two basset hounds sit on a chair in the living room
Milly (back) and Penny look kind of like models here. So cute!

Yet, in these arrival moments where I’m presented with the happy path stories of those I sit for, because of course I don’t see the hard, real-life moments when only meeting them for a day or two at a time, I question my life choices.

Often these questioning periods fade over the weeks, but this time instead of waiting for them to dissolve, I’d like to be an active participant in helping their dissolution along. I want to learn from my past self, and go through rather than around the issues I’m facing and the discomfort I’m feeling.

More, I’d like to sit with the anxiety of not knowing the future, of being different from the story presented to us (as I believe the majority of us, if not all of us are), and of walking a path alone. Then, from that sitting, I’d like to create an even greater confidence in myself.

You’ve heard me talk about this process once or twice so we know it’s possible. You’ve seen me choose the high road before as well, so we know I have the ability.

This time isn’t any different than those other times. So, why am I writing about it?

I write to show all of us that it takes TIME and consistent PRACTICE to architect one’s best life. It doesn’t happen once just from learning a lesson or realizing a mistake. It’s something we must come back to over and over and over again.

Remember, the journey is the destination, which means there simply IS no destination.

Let’s keep on walking up to and through those small, but important moments then, shall we?


Craving Alone Time: Is It OK to Spend Time Alone?

Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the Master makes use of it,
Embracing her aloneness, realizing
She is one with the whole Universe.

~ An excerpt from Chapter 42 of the Tao Te Ching – as Translated by Stephen Mitchell


I sit writing, hoping you don’t perceive the output as a presumption of enlightenment or wisdom. Since my focus here is based off an excerpt from the Tao Te Ching, the irony of my hope doesn’t elude me.

What IS the Tao Te Ching, otherwise called The Book of the Way or The Book of The Way and of How It Manifests Itself in the World?

Enter the term “Tao Te Ching” into a search engine and you’ll find the following definition:

The Tao Te Ching is the central Taoist text, ascribed to Lao-tzu, the traditional founder of Taoism. Apparently written as a guide for rulers, it defined the Tao, or way, and established the philosophical basis of Taoism.

What is The Tao?

To solve that question, I recommend reading the book. The Lis Hubert version of the Tao’s message is:

Stop trying so hard to BE. By trying, you’re not being, by not being, you’re caught up in trying and therefore missing out on life!

It’s a riddle, and yet, the Tao is the most efficient formula for living a fulfilling life I’ve encountered.

I was reading the Tao Te Ching the other night after a long few days of reflection. I’d been spending a lot of time alone in the countryside, and enjoying the quiet and solitude. More than just enjoying it, I was loving it!

I recognized how much I feared this enjoyment. I started to consider what enjoying my solitude meant. Questions arose.

Why do I like being alone so much? Is my craving alone time just a resistance to connecting and being vulnerable with others? Is me wanting to be alone, me trying to cop out of life?

Then the foundational, ever pervading question: IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME?

An aside. I’ve thought the last question most of my life. Many of us do. We yearn for a “right” way to live, and we’re sure it’s not the way we’re currently living. We believe that by trying hard enough we’ll start living “right”. Then we presume that when we start living “right”, everyone who has denied us will accept us for who we are. Peace and harmony will then reign forevermore.

Hey, I’ve thought this. So, don’t act like you haven’t.

Back to the story. As I was reading, one chapter resonated with my recent reflections on solitude, answering my questions surrounding feelings of otherness, ordinariness, and simplicity.

Chapter 20 of the Tao Te Ching – as Translated by Stephen Mitchell

“Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!

Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don’t care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.

Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.

I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.

Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharp;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don’t know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.

I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother’s breasts.”


It has taken millennia to translate and understand the text, and I know my depth of knowledge here is shallow. Still, I’ve bolded the lines which provide the most meaning to me at this time.

My relationship to most of the bold sentiments is easy to assume.

“Must you value what others value, avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous!” – I’ve certainly stated my independence and separateness a time or two.

“Drifting, possessing nothing, like someone without a home”; no surprises there.

“I drift like a wave on the ocean, I blow as aimless as the wind”; yep we’ve heard this on the blog before.

But, this line, I am different from ordinary people, now there’s the stanza that cut into me.

In his notes Mitchell untangles this sharp phrase adding, “I am more ordinary. When I am hungry, I eat; when I am tired, I sleep; that’s all.”

His addition moved me because I realized it describes the rhythm of life I find when I’m alone. When alone, I am often without distraction and can clearly see that all I need for a fulfilling life is food, sleep, and love.

Think about it… what else?

Our careers? Those guarantee food and a place to sleep. Our family, friends, partners? They guarantee love. (NOTE: I use the word “guarantee” to reflect our hopes and intentions, but I think it benefits us all to remember there is no guarantee… ever.)

When I take time alone, there is nothing I’m trying to do but observe the world around me. I also note how the food, sleep, and love point plays out with animals.

Dog stare at deer
I watch as Lyla stares down a doe outside the Lyle house.
Cat laying comfortably on a tree branch
Loved seeing Veronica hang out (Sorry… couldn’t help myself).
Cat face
Ron definitely wants my attention… He gets a lot of love with this face.
A view of the Columbia River.
Nothing like seeing these views on a hike alone – Looking East down the Columbia from Catherine Creek Trail in Washington State.
Peak of Mount Hood and view of the Columbia from WA State
A view from the Washington State side over at the Columbia River, Oregon, and the peak of Mount Hood.

Consider that your pet may rarely ever leave your house or property YET they are excited to see you come home from work each day. I don’t believe this excitement is due only to their brains not being “as developed” as ours. I believe their excitement stems from their needs of food, sleep, and love being met. They need nothing else to be excited about life.

Aren’t these same needs, the only ones we humans have? If all of these were met for you, what else would you NEED to live a full life?

Observing and acknowledging these moments when alone, doesn’t mean I want to spend ALL my time alone, of course. But, when I take the time to be quiet, to BE, I connect with this brilliant ordinariness. I find contentment in this space.

This practice of observing the world without distraction, shows me that whether alone or with others, if I’m participating in anything where I’m TRYING to create and fulfill needs outside of the basics, that’s when I’m copping out; when I’m TRYING to make my life have MEANING, instead of connecting with the meaning of my life.

Perhaps I crave alone time so much because it’s when I’m best able to stop TRYING and start actually living?

Right or wrong, that’s where I’m at.


My First Interview! – The Informed Life Podcast

I was on a podcast!



Jorge Arango Tweet
Tweet announcing my interview on The Informed Life podcast.

Last month, while housesitting in the Columbia River Gorge, my friend and colleague, Jorge Arango invited me to be a guest on his new show The Informed Life podcast.

Here’s a description of the show from the website: The Informed Life is an interview-based podcast that explores how people from different fields manage their personal information ecosystems to be more effective.

I had a blast chatting with Jorge about my journey; how I choose where to go, what I learn along the way, and, most interesting, what structures I put into place to keep going.

Take a listen when you have 30 minutes of ear time to spare, and be sure to report back on what you think!

Lis Hubert on Living an Intentional Life


Sensing a Shift

When I first started out on this adventure, I pictured myself as the heroine in my own archetypal journey. I knew I was beginning as The Fool, but could see myself taking on The World in no time. I was sure that by diligently walking the path placed before me, that of a life traveling to new places, meeting new people, and spending a lot of time alone in introspection, I’d be able to conquer the necessary tasks allowing me to learn and grow into a better, more giving, and more purposeful person. I’d basically architect my best life.

Fast forward 13 months, and I have indeed made much of my travels. I have many new friends, have experienced countless new places, and have even started to encounter those who find some hope in my stories based off my introspection.

Thing is, I don’t feel anywhere near finished with this journey, and even worse, I’m disconcerted at what I AM sensing.

That being: The path I am supposed to be walking is shifting, and this is throwing me all out of whack.

As I said, I thought observing new places and spreading my energy out as wide as possible would force me to extend and challenge myself. I figured by constantly throwing myself into a world of discomfort, and thus constantly having to swim through that world back to a comfortable place, I’d reach my end goal of architecting my best life.

However, I’m seeing now that I need a bit of self care and comfort along the way, and admitting this need, and then changing up my plans to meet it, is terrifying.

I believe the main reason I’m scared of this shift is because I’m afraid that altering my path means I’ve either A. failed or B. started to move in the wrong direction and away from growth.

Now… it’s not as if I’m NOT excited about, and grateful to be, traveling. It’s that with each step I take, I further realize that a new place, or anything external, isn’t solely responsible for my growth. As I’ve said before, it is up to me to change myself for any progress to be made, and I’ve proved to myself I can do this work anywhere and at anytime if, of course, I put in the effort.

What I’m seeing my new path shift to, may seem obvious considering the tagline of this blog, but I assure you I’m just realizing its fullness and importance in these past couple of days. The new focus being to work as hard as I can to align with that which makes me my best self as much as I possibly can.

I believe this practice of aligning with what is best is a combination of awareness (“What is this experience?”), reflection (“How does this experience help or hinder me?”), and acceptance (“Can I surrender to this experience and learn and grow from it?”). I can practice this wherever I am and in any situation I find myself, for the practice happens within me.

The main cause of this shift is that through this practice I’ve noticed traveling to new places while working is extremely exhausting for me. When I’m doing so, yes, I’m lucky be able to travel and work, but with each new place I not only have to physically get to the location, but I have to figure out every day logistics like meals, laundry, internet… you name it.

Therefore, if I’m traveling to multiple new places in a week or month, I’m doing this logistical dance over and over again, and it takes up a lot of my physical, mental, and emotional space. With this space taken up, I surely can’t do the self-work needed. Instead I’m just focusing on finding homeostasis. Distracting myself perhaps? Hmmmm.

When I’m in one place for awhile, however, I see that I can put together routines that make the every day life more efficient. So if I’m accepting the shift my path needs to take to allow me to align and be my best self, I see that going forward I have to travel to fewer new places and instead work to get back to familiar places where my routines are already set.

This means choosing comfort instead of courage, and in these times I question if choosing comfort is indeed the courageous act. Can you see my struggle?!

I thought about this a lot when I returned to The Gorge last week. I observed how I was SO relieved to be able to anchor in, work, and rest knowing the basics of the world around me. I knew where the grocery store was, where my favorite places were, where there would be free and good wifi. I also recognized how privileged I was and am to be able to feel this relief, and, being honest, I don’t want THAT to go to waste. But, again, I digress.

When talking to a local friend she mentioned how it’s as if being back in The Gorge now, I have more friends and go out more than when I lived here. Thing is, she’s right!

By being back in the familiar I can turn off the parts of my brain that are struggling to create structure because my structures are already in place. Instead I can use that energy to open myself up to new experiences and people. I can even open up to familiar friends but in a better way.

show at the hood river ruins
Live music at a local venue.
kelly and Lis
I get to go see live music with a friend when I’m in a familiar place. Woohoo!
Jacob Williams Winery
So lucky to be able to hang with friends in a beautiful place like this!
Jacob Williams Winery door
Enjoying a tasting with friends at Jacob Williams Winery.
terrier lying in the yard
Im sure Lyla would be happy to have me back.

I now see this opening up is just as much a part of the work as confronting the discomfort of a new place or person. In fact, it seems a deeper level of the onion to peel away.

The universe echoed this hypothesis when earlier this week I was invited back for potential housesits in both New Mexico for two to three months this upcoming winter, and Oakland for a month next Spring.

If these invites had happened earlier in my journey, I wouldn’t have considered them. Instead, I would have told myself that I needed to “get out and see new and different things”. Now I see that exposing myself to the uncomfortable and new is important, but it’s only the first step. I now have to take my practice deeper while in these familiar places.

I suppose, then, that I still am the heroine on this journey, but the meaning and way to the destination has leveled up. Perhaps this moment of reflection was one of those crisis moments where I assess the learnings I’ve gained and use them to better direct my aims?

When I think in this way I no longer wallow in the feelings of failure and doubt, but, instead I see how much I AM succeeding. I also see I’m doing so on my own terms, and, even better, doing so beyond all measure.

How cool is that?


Self Work: A Story

When anyone claims to be on a journey towards finding and knowing self, we think they must be making huge life changes like meditating 2 hours a day, eating only raw foods, or removing all excess from their life and living in solitude. But, I assure you that my path towards knowing myself better, and becoming a better me, is really about making simple, everyday life choices consciously and, when appropriate, differently.

An example occurred about a week ago when I was making my way from meeting my new nephew in Upstate New York to Hoboken, NJ (which for those not familiar with the area is about 2 – 3 hours away).

Taking this route was quite normal for me as I used to live in NYC and often went upstate to visit my family. Thus, when I embarked on the usual train ride from Middletown, NY to Hoboken, NJ, I didn’t expect any life lessons. I was simply looking forward to shutting my eyes for a few hours and resting.

That wasn’t the case.

On the day in question there was work being done on the train tracks, and so we needed to take a free shuttle bus to a more busy train station to avoid said work. This wasn’t abnormal either. In fact, I’d done it several times before without event.

Unfortunately on this day, our shuttle was late and we missed the next train putting us passengers an hour behind schedule. When I boarded the next shuttle, and realized we’d miss yet another train putting us now two hours behind schedule, I started to consider taking a cab the hour drive from somewhere in Northern New Jersey to Hoboken.

When this idea came to mind, I felt my heart start to race at the panic of being two hours late. I consciously chose to calm my thoughts. I then reminded myself it was Saturday, I had nowhere to be, and I wanted to save money. So, I came to the conclusion that getting a cab was unnecessary. I was disappointed in this realization, because I was SO TIRED and just wanted to get back to Hoboken to rest.

In this simple moment, I surrendered to the universe and accepted my fate of having to get home late putting the cab idea out of mind. Then, I disembarked the second shuttle bus to wait the hour for the next train.

As I was on the elevator to the train track with the other late passengers, a man about my age said, “Does anyone have the Uber app on their phone? I’ll pay for our ride to Hoboken. I can’t be late for work or I’ll lose my job.”

This was an ordinary moment, you see? It was a moment when most people would choose to ignore this stranger. I mean, who gets into an hour long cab ride with some strange man? Many of us would instead continue along the certain and safe path of catching the next train.

The old me would have made this choice, anyway. But the new me? The new me was conscious, and I saw the opportunity to get back faster while both saving money AND helping a fellow person out. So, I consciously chose differently.

“I have the Lyft app on my phone. We can split the cost of the ride,” I said.

“No. I’ll pay for it. Trust me you’re doing me a huge favor,” he replied.

With the free ride confirmed, I saw the universe supporting my decision. The man seemed normal enough, AND he was echoing thoughts I myself had had only a few minutes ago.

I took a chance.

Several minutes later our Lyft driver, Jean, whisked us away toward Hoboken. During the hour long ride, I watched as we became a unit. Jean laughed at the fact that Sean (the man from the elevator) and I were complete strangers taking a cab through New Jersey, and he told us about his band, his wife, and his work.

Sean, a bartender in the West Village neighborhood of NYC told us how he once talked to Lady Gaga who is best friends with a co-worker, and then described his history in bartending.

Jean was conscious about getting Sean to his train and to work on time. All of us were curious about each other. We were in it together.

We were human together.

You’ve heard me wonder here before about the point of these very short term, but intense, connections I make.

In this case, in the moment when the three of us were saying goodbye (PS Sean made his train on time!) I, again, lamented having this deeply connective moment which felt like it should last forever, end right in front of my eyes.

These moments make me emotional every time. I start to believe that surely these beings were meant to stay in my life to keep me human and connected. Then they are gone! It’s very hard on me.

This time, however, as I felt the impending loss, I also remembered that our human connection never fades, as long as we keep it alive within us. It can and should remain with us, even when the individuals who help reunite us with the connection are no longer near. This IS the point of these moments; to remember and internalize that connection to others and ourselves.

If I had decided to stay on the safe route of the train, I’d never have felt the warmth and laughter of other people experiencing life. I’d also never have those feelings to look back on when considering my own life.

In one moment I made a conscious, but different, choice which gave me a huge payoff that would extend beyond just the moment.

Now, as I reflect on this story while basking in the beauty of The Columbia River Gorge (where I’m housesitting for a dear friend) I again see that how we choose in the simple life moments, determines how we’ll make the bigger life choices.

Further, if in these simpler moments, we choose to be conscious and choose more for ourselves instead of for what we want others to think of us, we can then make the bigger life choices more confidently and more purposeful. I see it all as a practice to get us to a place where we’re confident and loving of who we are.

In the end, isn’t that what doing “self work” is all about?

Backwoods brewery flight
Cheers to that!

Experiencing Old Parts of My Life Anew

I knew that when I arrived back from Europe I’d find little rest. I was aware of the activity upon activity I had lined up which would whisk me about the North East, and, in truth, I was excited for the upcoming time with friends and family. What I didn’t realize, however, was that despite my lack of repose, I’d still be able to reflect, to continue to grow, and to find the inspiration needed to continue my journey.

This has been a special finding.

I always assumed my life-long mental and emotional fatigue was due to a lack of sleep. I do a lot, which I know is my choice, and I always figured my activity level was what wore me down. Thus, I’m invariably thinking about how to get more and better sleep so I can FINALLY, after 37 years on this planet, feel rested.

This morning (I’m drafting this post on Sunday June 23… My niece’s 12th birthday!) I woke up from a deep sleep just like the type I’ve been wishing for. It was great, except that I didn’t FEEL any more well rested than other mornings. Bummer.

As I bounced around these past couple of weeks from New York City to Providence, RI to Boston, MA to East Hartford, CT, and then finally to Fremont Center, NY, I found myself developing a hypothesis that would address this lack of feeling better even when I had more and better sleep. This morning my hypothesis seemed confirmed:

Maybe my feeling of fatigue isn’t caused by a lack of sleep at all. Maybe I’ve been expending too much of my energy on activities and people that drain me, instead of on those that fill me up.

The reason this thought came to me is because as I’ve been traveling around the past few weeks, I’ve been super conscious of who and what activities I give my energy to; choosing to spend more energy on people and things which fill me as opposed to those that leach off my light.

As a result, I’ve noticed the direct effects of my fatigue level lessening which I simply haven’t felt just from getting more or better sleep.

What are the activities and who are the people I’ve been spending my energy on? Here let me show you.

Lis and Clewi close up
Clewi and I arrive at our AirBnB in Providence, RI.
friends in the stands at Fenway park
Our crew has a relaxing afternoon at Fenway Park.
Family at dinner
The family gets together for dinner in MA. PS that’s the niece who just turned 12!
Lis in front of a pond.
Enjoying nature at A.W. Stanley Park
View from Wickham Park
The view from Wickham Park in Manchester, CT (my new favorite place!)
View of trees and hills
The view from my brother and sister-in-law’s house.
Pond in the country
More of my brother and sister-in-law’s beautiful property.
Lis holding her baby nephew
Me holding my new nephew, Nolan Christopher!

After these most recent travels, I’ve come to realize that simply getting more and better sleep is not enough for this self-proclaimed empath to feel my best. Instead I have to both get good rest AND monitor where and who my energy is shared with in order to feel alert, and to decrease my overarching cloud of tired.

What gives my hypothesis even more credit is that for the past few weeks I’ve been staying in places where I used to live full time, and where I am used to feeling my normal level of fatigue. Yet when I applied my new exercise of deciding where to place my energy while in these old and familiar environments, I noticed how much more calm and connected I felt.

So you see, my external environment was pretty much exactly the same as it was for the first 22 years of my life, but I was able to feel different while in it.

In addition to these findings, as I moved about these familiar locations as the 37 year old woman I’ve become, I couldn’t help but think on who I was all those years before.

While visiting my old roommate in Connecticut, for example, I thought back to my early twenties and to who I thought I wanted to be at that time. That Lis of 15 years ago believed she should stay at a full-time job, get married, buy a home, have children, and retire quietly with grandchildren waiting for her. For years I imagined my life starting, and ending, in Connecticut. Now, I can’t even conceive of many of these events occurring. It was a truly odd sensation.

I had a similar experience when I was back in upstate New York as I thought on who I was in grade and high school. I saw how, back then, I gave so much of myself away in order to try to conform to the narrative, and to attempt to be accepted and loved. I also saw how all of that energy was wasted as it went towards creating a false persona whose only goal was to “fit in”. Further, I saw how putting all my energy towards trying to gain the approval of others is what has sucking my energy dry all my life.

My perspectives have indeed broadened as I experience old parts of my life anew. But, most importantly, as I continue this journey I see how I’m taking control of and falling in love with my own narrative.

I’m now confidently deciding who and what gets my time. I’m also deciding who and what I want to be, and I’m deciding where I’m going and why.

This is an incredibly empowering realization, and I believe I owe it all to listening to my gut and stepping off the path most traveled.

With all of these new empowering beliefs and inspirations to guide me, I simply can’t wait to see where MY path takes me next.

Best of all, I have no doubt it’ll be to exactly wherever I’m supposed to be.



DISCLAIMER AFFILIATE LINKS

Links on this blog are often affiliate links and may generate a commission. (So thanks for clicking!)